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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 63(1)

A systematic evaluation of the incremental protection of broad-scale habitats at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Lynnath E. Beckley A C and Amanda T. Lombard B

A School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.
B Conservation Ecology Research Unit, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa 0002.
C Corresponding author. Email: L.Beckley@murdoch.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 63(1) 17-22 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF11074
Submitted: 29 March 2011  Accepted: 3 September 2011   Published: 8 November 2011

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Incremental increases to marine conservation areas in response to changing goals, policy, threats or new information are common practice worldwide. Ningaloo Reef, in north-western Australia, is protected by the Ningaloo Marine Park (state waters), which was expanded incrementally in 2004 so that 34% of the park now comprises ‘no-take’ sanctuary zones. To test the hypothesis that all habitats (benthic cover types) at Ningaloo are actually protected at this 34% level, a systematic conservation planning exercise was conducted using existing broad-scale habitat data (as a surrogate for marine biodiversity) and C-Plan decision-support software. Although subtidal and intertidal coral communities were found to be adequately protected, other habitats, particularly those in deeper waters seaward of the reef, did not attain the 34% target. Efficient incremental additions to the sanctuary zones to allow increased representation of these under-represented habitats were explored with C-Plan. It is recommended that systematic conservation planning incorporating new biodiversity and social information (now becoming available) be undertaken for the next iteration of the Ningaloo Marine Park management plan. This analysis at Ningaloo Reef serves as a useful example of a post hoc systematic approach to guide incremental expansion of existing marine protected areas in other parts of the world.

Additional keywords: conservation planning, management, marine park, sanctuaries, targets.


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