Global terrestrial distribution of penguins (Spheniscidae) and their conservation by protected areas

Abstract

Establishing protected areas (PAs) ranks among the top priority actions to mitigate the global scale of modern biodiversity declines. However, the distribution of biodiversity is spatially asymmetric among regions and lineages, and the extent to which PAs offer effective protection for species and ecosystems remains uncertain. Penguins, regarded as prime bioindicator birds of the ecological health of their terrestrial and marine habitats, represent priority targets for such quantitative assessments. Of the world’s 18 penguin species, eleven are undergoing population declines, for which ten are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’. Here, we employ a global-scale dataset to quantify the extent to which their terrestrial breeding areas are currently protected by PAs. Using quantitative methods for spatial ecology, we compare the global distribution of penguin colonies, including range and population size analyses, with the distribution of terrestrial PAs classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and generate hotspot and endemism maps worldwide. Our assessment quantitatively reveals < 40% of the terrestrial range of eleven penguin species is currently protected, and that range size is the significant factor in determining PA protection. We also show that there are seven global hotspots of penguin biodiversity where four or five penguin species breed. We suggest that future penguin conservation initiatives should be implemented based on more comprehensive, quantitative assessments of the multi-dimensional interactions between areas and species to further the effectiveness of PA networks.

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Acknowledgements

The data used are derived from public repositories. We thank UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (World Database on Protected Areas), IUCN Global Species Programs and the Species Survival Commission, OBIS, GBIF, and Birdlife International for developing the source data. Thank you to Professor Philip Seddon, James Hunter, Saif Khan, and anonymous reviewers for manuscript comments and edits. M.J and L.A.K.D are fully funded by the University of Lincoln, School of Life Sciences. R.P.H is fully funded by the University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship. R.P.H, D.P.D designed the study. R.P.H performed data collection. R.P.H, M.J performed analysis and interpretation. R.P.H wrote manuscript. D.P.D. supervised project. All authors (R.P.H, M.J, L.A.K.D, L.P.H, D.P.D) discussed the results and implications and edited and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

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Correspondence to Rachel P. Hickcox or Daniel Pincheira-Donoso.

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Hickcox, R.P., Jara, M., Deacon, L.A.K. et al. Global terrestrial distribution of penguins (Spheniscidae) and their conservation by protected areas. Biodivers Conserv 28, 2861–2876 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01801-z

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity hotspots
  • IUCN
  • Macroecology
  • Penguins
  • Protected areas
  • Species richness