Integrating Vulnerability Into Estuarine Conservation Planning: Does the Data Treatment Method Matter?
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Protected areas will more efficiently protect biodiversity if threats to the persistence of populations are addressed. Seagrass meadows are globally regarded as critical habitats because of their ecosystem services, human use values, and their diminishing extent. While selecting priority areas for conservation of seagrass meadows is largely aimed at maximizing the protection of their biodiversity, little attention is paid to consider simultaneously the representation of biodiversity and the minimization of threats. This study developed and tested an approach for integrating vulnerability of seagrass meadows to anthropogenic disturbance with the selection of estuarine-protected areas. Vulnerability was measured by data on different land use types in subcatchments. Conservation value was measured by irreplaceability, diversity indices, and rarity of macroinvertebrate species in seagrass meadows. Vulnerability was incorporated into conservation planning by plotting grid cell scores for conservation value versus their scores for vulnerability. The results showed that the performance of the model for the integration of vulnerability into estuarine conservation planning was sensitive to the data treatment. The vulnerability of seagrass meadows and accordingly the arrangement of priority areas for conservation and management attention may change if more information is incorporated into the measurement of vulnerability.
KeywordsConservation measure Vulnerability measure Seagrass Human use Irreplaceability Reserve selection
This study was supported by funding from the University of Newcastle and Gosford City Council. Thanks to Dr. P. Freewater at Gosford City Council. Thanks to K. O’Neill and G. Courtenay for their assistance in the field sampling and laboratory works. This project involved a large amount of species identification and this would not have been possible without the generous advice, teaching, and encouragement of Dr. P. Hutchings (Australian Museum). A large number of the species were checked for identification by Dr. Hutchings. The additional assistance at the Australian Museum provided by R. Springthorpe, I. Loch,W. Ponder, and A. Murray, was greatly appreciated. Thanks to Associate Editor of Estuaries and Coasts and three anonymous referees for critical review of an earlier version of this manuscript. The senior author was supported by an IPRS scholarship from the University of Newcastle. Macroinvertebrates were collected in compliance with permits issued by NSW Fisheries.
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