Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 14, pp 3819–3842 | Cite as

Biodiversity hotspots are not congruent with conservation areas in the Gulf of California

  • Hem Nalini Morzaria-LunaEmail author
  • Gabriela Cruz-Piñón
  • Richard C. Brusca
  • Ariadna Montserrat López-Ortiz
  • Marcia Moreno-Báez
  • Héctor Reyes-Bonilla
  • Peggy Turk-Boyer
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Biodiversity protection and reserves


As marine systems are threatened by increasing human impacts, mechanisms to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services are needed. Protecting areas of conservation importance may serve as a proxy for maintaining these functions, while also facilitating efficient use and management of limited resources. Biodiversity hotspots have been used as surrogates for spatial conservation importance; however, as many protected areas have been established opportunistically and under differing criteria, it is unclear how well they actually protect hotspots. We evaluated how well the current protected area network and priority areas selected through previous systematic conservation planning exercises preserve biodiversity hotspots in the Gulf of California, Mexico. We also determined spatial congruence between biodiversity hotspots based on different criteria, which may determine their ability to be used as surrogates for each other. We focus on the Gulf of California because it is a megadiverse system where limited information regarding species diversity and distribution has constrained development of strategies for conservation and management. We developed a species occurrence database and identified biodiversity hotspots using four different criteria: species richness, rarity, endemism, and threatened species. We interpolated species occurrence, while accounting for heterogeneous sampling efforts. We then assessed overlap of hotspots with existing protected areas and priority areas, and between hotspots derived by distinct criteria. We gathered 286,533 occurrence records belonging to 12,105 unique species, including 6388 species identified as rare, 642 as endemic, and 386 as threatened. We found that biodiversity hotspots showed little spatial overlap with areas currently under protection and previously identified priority areas. Our results highlight the importance of distinct spatial areas of biodiversity and suggest that different ecological mechanisms sustain different aspects of diversity and multiple criteria should be used when defining conservation areas.


Marine Spatial Planning Species richness Rarity Endemism Threatened species 



This analysis was developed as part of the Coastal Marine Spatial Planning and Integrated Management (CMSP) process for the Punta Borrascoso - Puerto Lobos Coastal Corridor, Sonora, México. We thank the technical advisory committee associated with the CMSP process for feedback on an early version of the model. Jorge Álvarez-Romero, James Cook University (Queensland, Australia), provided data layers from previous planning exercises in the Gulf of California. Data from intertidal and subtidal monitoring came from the project “PANGAS: An Interdisciplinary Ecosystem-Based Research Framework for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Northern Gulf of California.” Dulce Carolina Ruiz Villa helped compile the species lists. H. Morzaria-Luna thanks the Integrative Marine Ecology group, at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS-NOAA in Seattle, WA, for hosting her as a visiting researcher during the completion of this study. We thank the rOpenSci initiative ( for developing many of the open source packages used for our analysis. The comments from three anonymous reviewers and the Senior Editor greatly improved the manuscript.

Authors contribution

Design and planning: H.M.L., P.T.B.; data processing: G.C.P., H.M.L., A.M.L.O.; data analysis: G.C.P., H.M.L., A.M.L.O.; data acquisition: G.C.P., H.M.L., H.R.B., M.M.B., R.C.B.; writing: G.C.P., H.M.L., H.R.B., M.M.B., P.T.B., R.C.B.


Funding came from Blue Solutions Initiative, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) (81215456) and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2015-62746 & 2017-66224) to the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans. Gabriela Cruz-Piñón was funded by CONACyT (238326). Cloud computing resources were provided through a Microsoft Azure Research Award (0518812) to Gabriela Cruz-Piñón. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis, writing or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1631_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2060 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hem Nalini Morzaria-Luna
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gabriela Cruz-Piñón
    • 3
  • Richard C. Brusca
    • 4
  • Ariadna Montserrat López-Ortiz
    • 3
  • Marcia Moreno-Báez
    • 5
  • Héctor Reyes-Bonilla
    • 3
  • Peggy Turk-Boyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and OceansCEDO Inc.TucsonUSA
  2. 2.Northwest Fisheries Science CenterNOAASeattleUSA
  3. 3.Departamento de Ciencias Marinas y CosterasUniversidad Autónoma de Baja California SurLa PazMexico
  4. 4.Arizona-Sonora Desert MuseumTucsonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of New EnglandBiddefordUSA

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