Improving spatial prioritisation for remote marine regions: optimising biodiversity conservation and sustainable development trade-offs
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Creating large conservation zones in remote areas, with less intense stakeholder overlap and limited environmental information, requires periodic review to ensure zonation mitigates primary threats and fill gaps in representation, while achieving conservation targets. Follow-up reviews can utilise improved methods and data, potentially identifying new planning options yielding a desirable balance between stakeholder interests. This research explored a marine zoning system in north-west Australia–abiodiverse area with poorly documented biota. Although remote, it is economically significant (i.e. petroleum extraction and fishing). Stakeholder engagement was used to source the best available biodiversity and socio-economic data and advanced spatial analyses produced 765 high resolution data layers, including 674 species distributions representing 119 families. Gap analysis revealed the current proposed zoning system as inadequate, with 98.2% of species below the Convention on Biological Diversity 10% representation targets. A systematic conservation planning algorithm Maxan provided zoning options to meet representation targets while balancing this with industry interests. Resulting scenarios revealed that conservation targets could be met with minimal impacts on petroleum and fishing industries, with estimated losses of 4.9% and 7.2% respectively. The approach addressed important knowledge gaps and provided a powerful and transparent method to reconcile industry interests with marine conservation.
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