Putting models to a good use: a rapid assessment of Arctic seabird biodiversity indicates potential conflicts with shipping lanes and human activity
Aims: To use open access models of predicted seabird distribution data in the Arctic to create rapid assessment biodiversity maps for management purposes and for prioritization of conservation. Location: High Arctic, North of 60° latitude. Methods: The predicted distributions of 27 species of Arctic seabirds were combined to create a seabird biodiversity map. The GIS layers created were based on peer-reviewed model outputs which were calculated using the random forest algorithm and supplemented with ISO standardized metadata for quality assurance. We have overlain the species diversity and occurrence maps with known shipping lanes and areas of human activities in the Arctic to highlight areas of potential human conflict with pelagic seabirds. Results: Entry points to the Arctic Basin for example Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, Chukchi Sea, Greenland Sea and Norwegian Sea are specific conflict zones with mean number of species occurring within 20 km of shipping zones ranging from 17 to 19 (63–70% of modelled species). We also show that these are areas of the highest intensity of human activities in the Arctic (fishing, ship traffic and accident rates). Main conclusion These Arctic seabird biodiversity maps can be used to make decisions which take into account ecology and socio-economy (e.g. Marxan analysis and marine protected areas MPAs) and for ecological/economic studies which can help to create a pro-active management scheme. This is particularly important due to the future increase in human impacts in the Arctic (i.e. fishing, tourism and especially shipping). By improving upon these models and further examination into the interactions between seabirds and humans in the Arctic, we can guide important policy decisions to protect Arctic biodiversity.