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Using Cumulative Impact Mapping to Prioritize Marine Conservation Efforts in Equatorial Guinea

B. T. Trew et al.
Effective Design

Human activities cause major threats to marine biodiversity, which has led to the target of protecting at least 10% of the oceans with area-based conservation measures, like marine protected areas (MPAs). Achieving such a global target asks for a profound understanding of how potentially harmful human activities are distributed, as well as their expected impacts. An approach that is being increasingly used to better understand human impact on species and ecosystems is cumulative impact mapping, allowing to identify the possible effects of economic sectors. The data that results from this tool can be used to prioritise strategies for conservation management. This paper presents the first local impact mapping exercise, applied to the Bioko-Corisco-Continental area in Equatorial Guinea’s EEZ. This area is situated in the Gulf of Guinea, which is a key marine area in the Eastern Central Atlantic that has hardly been studied in this context. The researchers analysed the potential impact of ten different human activities on key megafauna species and show that their most important habitats have the highest threat scores. On the other hand, the study also identified coastal areas that may be suitable sites for protected areas, because they are key habitats with lower threat scores. Analysis of both areas with lower and higher impact levels, as well as human activities that are particularly damaging, can provide valuable information for decion-making processes on protected area initiatives in the future.