Understanding the distribution of marine megafauna in the English channel region: identifying key habitats for conservation within the busiest seaway on earth.
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© 2014 McClellan, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
The temperate waters of the North-Eastern Atlantic have a long history of maritime resource richness and, as a result, the European Union is endeavouring to maintain regional productivity and biodiversity. At the intersection of these aims lies potential conflict, signalling the need for integrated, cross-border management approaches. This paper focuses on the marine megafauna of the region. This guild of consumers was formerly abundant, but is now depleted and protected under various national and international legislative structures. We present a meta-analysis of available megafauna datasets using presence-only distribution models to characterise suitable habitat and identify spatially-important regions within the English Channel and southern bight of the North Sea. The integration of studies from dedicated and opportunistic observer programmes in the United Kingdom and France provide a valuable perspective on the spatial and seasonal distribution of various taxonomic groups, including large pelagic fishes and sharks, marine mammals, seabirds and marine turtles. The Western English Channel emerged as a hotspot of biodiversity for megafauna, while species richness was low in the Eastern English Channel. Spatial conservation planning is complicated by the highly mobile nature of marine megafauna, however they are important components of the marine environment and understanding their distribution is a first crucial step toward their inclusion into marine ecosystem management.
The INTERREG IV A France (Channel) – England cross-border European cooperation programme, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the CHannel integrated Approach for marine Resource Management (CHARM) Phase III project provided funding for the meta-analysis presented in this manuscript through EU postdoctoral fellowships to C. McClellan and S. Patrick. R. Deaville provided the UK cetacean strandings data, which together with the marine turtle data was co-funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and by the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales. G. Bradbury and J. Darke provided data from the UK's Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which was funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. T. Dunn provided the Joint Cetacean Database and the European Seabirds at Sea data. P.S. Hammond provided the SCANS and SCANS-II data funded by EU LIFE Nature projects LIFE 92-2/UK/027 and LIFE04NAT/GB/000245, respectively. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Vol. 9, Iss. 2, pp. e89720 -
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