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Frequent locations of ocean fronts as an indicator of pelagic diversity: application to marine protected areas and renewables
Miller, P.I. & Christodoulou, S. (2014) Marine Policy 45:318-329
Frequent locations of thermal fronts in UK shelf seas were identified using an archive of 30,000 satellite images acquired between 1999 and 2008, and applied as a proxy for pelagic diversity in the designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Networks of MPAs are required for conservation of critical marine habitats within Europe, and there are similar initiatives worldwide. Many pelagic biodiversity hotspots are related to fronts, for example cetaceans and basking sharks around the Isle of Man, Hebrides and Cornwall, and hence remote sensing can address this policy need in regions with insufficient species distribution data. This is the first study of UK Continental Shelf front locations to use a 10-year archive of full-resolution (1.1 km) AVHRR data, revealing new aspects of their spatial and seasonal variability. Frontal locations determined at sea or predicted by ocean models agreed closely with the new frequent front maps, which also identified many additional frontal zones. These front maps were among the most widely used datasets in the recommendation of UK MPAs, and would be applicable to other geographic regions and to other policy drivers such as facilitating the deployment of offshore renewable energy devices with minimal environmental impact.

Keywords: marine protected areas, pelagic biodiversity, fronts, sea-surface temperature, remote sensing, offshore renewable energy.


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