Global priorities for marine biodiversity conservation

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 8;9(1):e82898. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082898. eCollection 2014.


In recent decades, many marine populations have experienced major declines in abundance, but we still know little about where management interventions may help protect the highest levels of marine biodiversity. We used modeled spatial distribution data for nearly 12,500 species to quantify global patterns of species richness and two measures of endemism. By combining these data with spatial information on cumulative human impacts, we identified priority areas where marine biodiversity is most and least impacted by human activities, both within Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Our analyses highlighted places that are both accepted priorities for marine conservation like the Coral Triangle, as well as less well-known locations in the southwest Indian Ocean, western Pacific Ocean, Arctic and Antarctic Oceans, and within semi-enclosed seas like the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Within highly impacted priority areas, climate and fishing were the biggest stressors. Although new priorities may arise as we continue to improve marine species range datasets, results from this work are an essential first step in guiding limited resources to regions where investment could best sustain marine biodiversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Climate
  • Conservation of Natural Resources* / economics
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Geography
  • Human Activities
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Oceans and Seas*
  • Species Specificity
  • Water Pollution

Grant support

Funding for this work was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Cinco Hermanos, a grant from the Packard Foundation to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and support to the IUCN-GMSA from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the Thomas W. Haas Foundation. K.K.'s work was conducted in part while working on the PELAGIC project co-financed by the Fondation pour la Recherche en Biodiversité and Fondation Total. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.