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The Third Dimension of Conservation

Credit: Thomas Vignaud

The ocean realm is fundamentally a three-dimensional space. Conservation planning in such conditions is more efficient when features and threats can be stratified with depth. Credit: Thomas Vignaud

By Ruben Venegas-Li

Oceans are inherently three-dimensional spaces, so effective and efficient conservation planning in oceans should take this third dimension – depth – into account.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Spatial conservation prioritisation is a method used to identify areas where conservation goals can be achieved efficiently. Traditionally this has meant the region being considered is subdivided into two-dimensional planning units. These planning units are then allocated to a given management regime based on what biodiversity it holds, what threats are affecting it, and on how much it would cost to manage these conservation features.

Two-dimensional planning units makes sense in most situations because this type of exercise is usually done on a map overlay, like a map of a coastline with a range of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems along its length. And maps, and the way we usually perceive space, are basically two-dimensional.

But what if the biodiversity we are seeking to protect (or the potential threats to this biodiversity) vary at different depths in any of these planning units? Where that is the case, the traditional two-dimensional approach may not be enough.

The vertical heterogeneity of biodiversity and threats might create conditions in which protecting biodiversity at one depth might be compatible with other uses of the ocean at another depth. For example, protecting important ecosystems on the sea floor could be compatible with some types of pelagic fishing above. In such instances, vertical zoning of the water column might prove a...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.