Using species-area relationships to inform baseline conservation targets for the deep North East Atlantic

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58941. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058941. Epub 2013 Mar 20.


Demands on the resources of the deep-sea have increased in recent years. Consequently, the need to create and implement a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to help manage and protect these resources has become a global political priority. Efforts are currently underway to implement MPA networks in the deep North East Atlantic. To ensure these networks are effective, it is essential that baseline information be available to inform the conservation planning process. Using empirical data, we calculated conservation targets for sessile benthic invertebrates in the deep North East Atlantic for consideration during the planning process. We assessed Species-Area Relationships across two depth bands (200-1100 m and 1100-1800 m) and nine substrata. Conservation targets were predicted for each substratum within each depth band using z-values obtained from fitting a power model to the Species-Area Relationships of observed and estimated species richness (Chao1). Results suggest an MPA network incorporating 10% of the North East Atlantic's deep-sea area would protect approximately 58% and 49% of sessile benthic species for the depth bands 200-1100 m and 1100-1800 m, respectively. Species richness was shown to vary with substratum type indicating that, along with depth, substratum information needs to be incorporated into the conservation planning process to ensure the most effective MPA network is implemented in the deep North East Atlantic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Biodiversity*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Marine Biology*
  • Population Density

Grant support

Data collection was funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform through Strategic Environmental Assessment 7 (formerly the Department for Trade and Industry) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs through their advisors the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the offshore Special Areas for Conservation programme. Data analysis was partially funded by a mini grant awarded to K.L.H. from the Census of Seamounts, a joint Research Councils of the UK fellowship awarded to K.L.H., University of Plymouth's Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre and University of Plymouth™s Faculty of Science and Engineering. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.