Distribution modelling of the benthic habitats within the Fair Isle Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area

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Abstract

Positioned between the Orkney and Shetland archipelagos in the North Atlantic, the Fair Isle Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area (DR MPA) plays a crucial role in marine management and conservation efforts. Designated under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, it offers a unique opportunity for innovative marine management strategies, focusing on sustainability, conservation, and ecotourism. Limited knowledge exists about the benthic habitats, identified as a research priority in the Fair Isle DR MPA Winter 2020/21 stakeholder consultation. This report focuses on modelling the potential benthic habitat composition within the Fair Isle DR MPA, with an emphasis on Priority Marine Features (PMFs).
Utilising Distribution Models (DMs), this study aims to address this knowledge gap by analysing biotopes with environmental data, providing a baseline for future research, and marine management initiatives. The analysis covers 28 distinct biotope groups, including PMFs, revealing their potential distribution within the Fair Isle DR MPA.
The DMs, employing MaxEnt, demonstrated robust predictive accuracy, as evidenced by high Area Under the Curve (AUC) values during validation. Eleven biotope groups and five PMF-focused subgroups were modelled within the Fair Isle DR MPA, showcasing the efficacy of DMs in delineating potential habitat distributions.
Despite the success of DMs in predicting habitat distributions, the scarcity of biotope records within the designated area underscores the need for expanded data collection efforts within the Fair Isle DR MPA. The report recommends dedicated biotope surveys, long-term monitoring, species-specific studies, and community engagement to enhance our understanding of the marine ecosystem and inform adaptive management strategies.
While the DMs provide a robust starting point, ongoing research efforts are crucial for advancing our understanding of the Fair Isle DR MPA marine environment. This study highlights the importance of localised biotope data for precise mapping and emphasises the need for comprehensive research to foster informed and sustainable marine management practices.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUHI Shetland
Number of pages36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Benthic
  • habitat suitability modelling
  • distribution modelling
  • MPA
  • MaxEnt
  • BENTHIC HABITATS

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