Applying complementary species vulnerability assessments to improve conservation strategies in the Galapagos Marine Reserve
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- Kaplan, K.A., Montero-Serra, I., Vaca-Pita, E.L. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2014) 23: 1509. doi:10.1007/s10531-014-0679-5
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Marine biodiversity can be protected by identifying vulnerable species and creating marine protected areas (MPAs) to ensure their survival. A wide variety of methods are employed by environmental managers to determine areas of conservation priority, however which methods should be applied is often a subject of debate for practitioners and scientists. We applied two species vulnerability assessments, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species and FishBase’s intrinsic vulnerability assessment, to fish communities in three coastal habitats (mangrove, rocky and coral) on the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos. When using the IUCN red list of threatened species, rocky reefs hosted the greatest number of vulnerable species, however when applying the FishBase assessment of intrinsic vulnerability mangroves hosted the greatest abundance of ‘very-highly’ vulnerable species and coral ecosystems hosted the greatest abundance of ‘highly’ vulnerable species. The two methods showed little overlap in determining habitat types that host vulnerable species because they rely on different biological and ecological parameters. Since extensive data is required for IUCN red list assessments, we show that the intrinsic vulnerability assessment from FishBase can be used to complement the IUCN red list especially in data-poor areas. Intrinsic vulnerability assessments are based on less data-intensive methods than the IUCN red list, but nonetheless may bridge information gaps that can arise when using the IUCN red list alone. Vulnerability assessments based on intrinsic factors are not widely applied in marine spatial planning, but their inclusion as a tool for forming conservation strategies can be useful in preventing species loss.