New research modelling to help marine conservation


The University of Queensland (UQ) has announced a breakthrough in 3D modelling of marine environments, which it claims may lead to improved conservation outcomes for the nation’s reefs and marine parks.

The 3D spatial conservation prioritisation technology was developed by UQ PhD students Ruben Venegas-Li of UQ’s Biodiversity Research Group, led by Associate Professor Salit Kark.

Dr Kark said the technique would help overcome one of the key problems with current marine conservation mapping and planning.

“Marine ecosystems are 3D in nature, with depth playing a key role in their structuring, species distributions and ecosystem functioning,” she said.

“Until now, the vast majority of efforts to prioritise what conservation actions in the marine environment has been performed in two dimensions, usually working on a grid over a 2D map.

“This doesn’t really give us much of the information we need, as protecting biodiversity at one depth might actually be compatible with other uses of the ocean at a different depth.

The idea for 3D conservation planning arose in a workshop in Italy in 2015, one of a series initiated and co-led by Dr Kark, which brought together marine conservation experts from across the globe.