MediterraneanMalta Rosscophoto FlickrCCBYNCND 1Most conservation planning uses two-dimensional planning units. In a recent study, our researchers developed a method to use three-dimensional planning units for marine conservation prioritisation. Why? Because marine environments are of varying and considerable depths (oceans are an average of 3700m deep), and accounting for depth could lead to better conservation outcomes. 

The team, led by Ruben Venegas, developed a novel 3-D spatial conservation prioritisation methodology that accounts for depth and allows for vertical zoning of management actions.

Using the Mediterranean Sea as a case study, they used Marxan software and adapted it for 3-D planning. They were able to quantify factors such as biodiversity features and human activities distributed vertically and horizontally in the water column. They were then able to identify areas as priorities for conservation (where conservation targets could be achieved for minimal cost). In some cases, the priority areas were only at specific depth-layers of the water column. 

They compared this methodology with using 2-D planning units, and found that 3-D conservation planning was more efficient and able to target specific conservation actions to specific depth layers of the water column. 


Venegas-Li, Ruben; Levin, Noam; Possingham, Hugh; and Kark, Salit. 2017. 3D spatial conservation prioritisation: Accounting for depth in marine environments. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12896