Global marine biodiversity plays a vital role in maintaining essential ecosystem functions, including primary productivity, food provision, and shelter. In the United States, marine sanctuaries and other strategically placed habitat protections can safeguard biodiversity hotspots, enhancing ecosystem resilience and sustaining ecosystem services upon which human communities depend. However, the increase in size and number of protected areas in federal waters has generally occurred on a site-by-site basis, likely leaving gaps in protection of important habitats.
The Lenfest Ocean Program and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation are supporting Dr. J. Emmett Duffy, Smithsonian Institution, and Dr. Daniel Dunn, University of Queensland, to convene interdisciplinary teams of experts to develop a spatial gap analysis to assess the status of marine habitat and biodiversity protection in U.S. marine waters. This work will help create a framework that enables agency managers and scientists to holistically assess current biodiversity protections, target areas most in need of management action, and facilitate adaptation to changing ocean conditions.