Report | May 1, 2019

Benthic habitat modelling and mapping as a conservation tool for marine protected areas: A seamount in the western Mediterranean


  1. An ecologically representative, well-connected, and effectively managed system of marine protected areas (MPAs) has positive ecological and environmental effects as well as social and economic benefits. Although progress in expanding the coverage of MPAs has been made, the application of management tools has not yet been implemented in most of these areas.
  2. In this work, distribution models were applied to nine benthic habitats on a Mediterranean seamount within an MPA for conservation purposes. Benthic habitat occurrences were identified from 55 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) transects, at depths from 76 to 700 m, and data derived from multibeam bathymetry. Generalized additive models (GAMs) were applied to link the presence of each benthic habitat to local environmental proxies (depth, slope, backscatter, aspect, and bathymetric position index, BPI).
  3. The main environmental drivers of habitat distribution were depth, slope, and BPI. Based on this result, five different geomorphological areas were distinguished. A full coverage map indicating the potential benthic habitat distribution on the seamount was obtained to inform spatial management.
  4. The distribution of those habitats identified as vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) was used to make recommendations on zonation for developing the management plan of the MPA. This process reveals itself as an appropriate methodological approach that can be developed in other areas of the Natura 2000 marine network.

Access to the text

(Via Wiley)