One of the world's most important ecosystems is the offshore marine ecosystem. However, this ecosystem often also gets overlooked and is underrepresented in our conservation efforts. This article illustrates how GIS is used to confirm the effectiveness of marine conservation efforts in Hawaii.
In order to conserve and protect marine life, Hawaii has set up eleven MLCD's (Marine Life Conservation Districts) around the islands. These districts were originally set up to encourage public interaction with the marine environment, and therefore have varying size, management regimes, and habitat quality. The figure below shows how the marine environment has been mapped to divide the ecosystem into its various parts.
What they were able to discover through this use of benthic habitat maps in conjunction with the location of the MLCD's, is that overall fish biomass is 2.6 times higher in the protected areas than in open waters. Apex predators and other species were also found to be larger and more abundant in the MLCD's. In this scenario, GIS was instrumental in proving the effectiveness of the MLCD's in achieving the end goal of a healthier marine ecosystem in Hawaii's coastal waters.
Alan M. Friedlander, Eric K. Brown, and Mark E. Monaco 2007. COUPLING ECOLOGY AND GIS TO EVALUATE EFFICACY OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS IN HAWAII. Ecological Applications 17:715–730. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/06-0536