A Bioregional Classification of the Continental Shelf of Northeastern North America for Conservation Analysis and Planning Based on Representation

Rosamonde R. Cook and Peter J. Auster
National Undersea Research Center & Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Groton

Conservation
A Bioregional Classification of the Continental Shelf of Northeastern North America for Conservation Analysis and Planning Based on Representation (pdf, 892K)
Understanding how well National Marine Sanctuaries and other marine protected areas represent the diversity of species present within and among the biogeographic regions where they occur is essential for assessing their conservation value and identifying gaps in the protection of biological diversity. One of the first steps in any such assessment should be the development of clearly defined and scientifically justified planning boundaries representing distinct oceanographic conditions and faunal assemblages. Here, we propose a set of boundaries for the continental shelf of northeastern North America defined by subdivisions of the Eastern Temperate Province, based on a review and synthesis (a meta-analysis) of the scientific literature.

According to this review, the Eastern Temperate Province is generally divided into the Acadian and Virginian Subprovinces. Broad agreement places the Scotian Shelf, Gulf of Maine, and Bay of Fundy within the Acadian Subprovince. The proper association of Georges Bank is less clear; some investigators consider it part of the Acadian and others part of the Virginian. Disparate perspectives emerge from the analysis of different groups of organisms. Further, while some studies suggest a distinction between the Southern New England shelf and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic Bight, others describe the region as a broad transition zone with no unique characteristics of its own. We suggest there exists sufficient evidence to consider the Scotian Shelf, Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, Southern New England, and Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight to be distinct biogeographic regions from a conservation planning perspective, and present a set of proposed mapped boundaries.

Keywords: biogeography, boundaries, species distributions, physiography, gap analysis

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