Due to lack of specific species data, it is often difficult to predict where marine conservation will be most effective in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. Olds et al (2014) test whether surrogates that fulfill the criteria of being keystone, umbrella, and flagship species can accurately predict which areas are optimal for conservation. They also tested whether seascape connectivity has an effect on fish abundance. It was concluded that the integration of these two conditions in marine spatial planning can positively impact the maintenance of fish communities and the functioning of ecosystems, and that these improvements can be beneficial to people in terms of sustenance and income.
Bumphead parrotfish were chosen as surrogates to map multispecies conservation. Because they fit the criterion of threatened, crucial for the ecosystem, important to socioeconomic conditions, and share a pattern of movement with many different species, they can be used to plot marine conservation areas with a correlated effect for many species. Seascape connectivity between seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef environments was also used to predict the ability of reserves to enhance effective conservation. This is due to the variety of habitats the bumphead parrotfish and consequently many other local species utilize throughout their lifetimes. Divers observed the distribution of species throughout specific sites, and then compared the results in terms of species abundance and distribution. Results showed that connectivity improved species abundance, and that reserves that benefitted the bumphead parrotfish also strongly benefitted other local species. These results support the use of seascape connectivity and surrogate species in spatial planning to promote the functioning of ecosystems and abundance of other species. This is important not only for biodiversity, but also for the socioeconomic effects that more abundant flagship species can provide. A win-win for people and the environment is a strong point in the case for thoughtful marine conservation.
Olds, A. D., Connolly, R. M., Pitt, K. A., et al. 2014. Incorporating Surrogate Species and Seascape Connectivity to Improve Marine Conservation Outcomes. Conservation Biology, 28, 982-991. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12242/full