Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Cetacean conservation planning in a global diversity hotspot: dealing with uncertainty and data deficiencies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fabrice StephensonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021 The Authors.Many cetacean species are at risk from anthropogenic disturbances including climate change, pollution, and habitat degradation. Identifying cetacean hotspots for conservation management is therefore required. Aotearoa–New Zealand waters are used by 53% of the world’s cetacean species and are a global cetacean diversity hotspot. Using geographic predictions of cetacean taxa, we aimed to identify important areas within New Zealand waters using two methods: estimates of cetacean richness and a spatial prioritization analysis. For both methods, we investigated how varying levels of uncertainty in predictions of the taxa’ occurrence layers would affect our interpretation of cetacean hotspots. Despite some marked spatial differences in distribution of important areas for cetacean diversity, both methods, across all uncertainty scenarios, highlighted six distinct deep offshore regions as important habitat. Generally, inshore areas had lower richness estimates than offshore areas, but these remain important for conservation for species with limited ranges (e.g., the endemic Māui and Hector’s dolphins), and in some places had similar richness values to offshore hotspots. Furthermore, inshore hotspots had lower uncertainty in predicted taxa distribution and richness estimates. The use of two different uncertainty estimates allows the integration of distributional information from differing sources (different modeling methods with varying numbers of cetacean records) to be integrated in a robust and conservative way. Identification of cetacean hotspots with varying levels of uncertainty provides a robust and efficient step toward prioritizing areas for conservation management in a participatory process.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stephenson F, Hewitt JE, Torres LG, Mouton TL, Brough T, Goetz KT, Lundquist CJ, MacDiarmid AB, Ellis J, Constantine R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecosphere

Year: 2021

Volume: 12

Issue: 7

Print publication date: 01/07/2021

Online publication date: 05/07/2021

Acceptance date: 02/02/2021

Date deposited: 23/11/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2150-8925

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.3633


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
NIWA Fisheries Programme
Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge Phase II