The marine biodiversity research group at the University of Auckland has published a world map of where most biodiversity is in the ocean. This is the most representative map of biodiversity to date because it considers marine life from genes to ecosystems. Prioritizing the protection of this 30% of the oceans would protect about 70% of its biodiversity. The map also indicates where monitoring of trends in species abundance would be most effective in documenting change in biodiversity.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress called for the full protection of 30% of each marine habitat globally and at least 30% of all the ocean. This map shows where these priority areas would be best located.

国际自然保护联盟(IUCN)世界自然保护大会(World Conservation Congress)呼吁在全球范围内切实保护每个海洋生物栖息地30%的区域,以及全球所有海域的30%。作为回应,此项研究中的区域优先级分析和测绘显示了应该进行优先区域保护的最佳位置(以下简称为‘最优先保护区域’)。

The areas were mainly on continental coasts, island arcs, oceanic islands, the southwest Indian Ridge, the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Coral Triangle (around Indonesia and Philippines), Caribbean Sea, and the Arctic Archipelago.


The project was led by former Ph.D. student Qianshuo Zhao, who previously used 20 kinds of environmental data to produce the first complete world map of marine ecosystems. Another Ph.D. student, Dinusha Jayathilake, produced the new world maps of the seagrass and kelp biomes used in the project.

该研究由组内的博士研究生赵千硕(已毕业)所主导。此前赵千硕基于20种不同的环境变量数据首次完全测绘了全球表层海洋生态系统(marine ecosystems)的分布,而这项海洋生态系统分布的测绘结果也被引入此项优先级分析研究当中。研究组中的另一名博士研究生蒂努莎·贾亚希拉克(Dinusha Jayathilake)提供了此项研究中所用到的全球海草与巨藻生物群系(biomes)的分布数据。

Although only 30% of the ocean, the mapped areas include 94% of coral reefs and mangrove forests, and 86% of kelp forests and seagrass meadows, and 68% of species. Thus, most biodiversity is protected in the least area.


The analysis found that less than 1 % of the area had been designated to be protected. Ocean protection has hardly begun. It is far off the 10% global target agreed under the Convention on Biological Diversity and in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

该研究发现只有不到1%的‘最优先保护区域’处于保护当中。这与生物多样性公约(CBD)和联合国可持续发展目标(the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals)中所商定的10%全球目标相去甚远。

Most (58%) of the 30% priority area is coastal and so countries can unilaterally protect it. The remaining 42% is on the High Seas where international agreement is needed. The countries that could contribute most are Canada, Australia, USA, Greenland, Indonesia, Russia, and New Zealand, as they have the largest prioritized areas within their EEZs.


All the maps and underlying data are publicly available. These data include

  • Species richness based on modeled ranges of 25,000 species (including deep-sea etc.) nested within 30 realms of endemicity based on cluster analyses of 65,000 species;
  • Modeled ranges of the four major marine biomes, seagrass, laminarian kelp, mangroves, and shallow corals;
  • Seabed topography as an indicator of other major seabed habitats;
  • Seven world shallow-water marine ecosystems based on cluster analyses of 20 environmental layers (including seabed slope and depth, current and wind velocity, wave height, distance from land, sea surface temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen, chlorophyll concentration and primary production, nutrients, ice cover).

The optimal area was selected using decision-support software to identify the areas that complement each other to include most biodiversity. It is a ~100 km resolution.


  • 物种丰富度:基于25,000个物种(包括深海物种)的建模分布与30个物种特异性领域(基于65,000个物种的聚类分析)之间的嵌套;
  • 四大海洋生物群系:海草,海带属巨藻,红树林和浅水珊瑚的建模分布;
  • 海床地势:指示其他种类的海底栖息地;
  • 七类全球表层海洋生态系统:基于20种环境变量进行的聚类分析,这些变量包括海床坡度和深度,海流和风速,浪高,离岸距离,海面温度,盐度,pH,氧气,叶绿素浓度和初级生产力,营养盐,以及冰盖。


Freely accessible from this link until 22nd May 2020 https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1aqpU1R~eEhKs

The map can be downloaded from this Figshare link eternally https://doi.org/10.17608/k6.auckland.12082158.v1





Zhao Q, Stephenson F, Lundquist C, Kaschner K, Jayathilake DRM, Costello MJ. 2020. Where Marine Protected Areas would best represent 30% of ocean biodiversity. Biological Conservation 244, 108536. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108536 .

This paper built on previous studies by the group that mapped and reviewed current knowledge on marine (1) ecosystems (Zhao et al. 2019a, 2019b, 2020), (2) seagrass and kelp biomes (Jayathilake and Costello 2018, 2019a, 2019b), (3) realms of marine endemicity (Costello et al. 2017, 2018a), (4) habitat classifications, topographic statistics and the three-dimensional nature of the ocean environmental variability (Costello 2009, Costello et al. 2010, 2018b, Costello and Breyer 2017), and (5) the underlying knowledge about biodiversity, biogeography, deep-sea and ocean environment (Costello and Chaudhary 2017, Basher and Costello 2019, Costello et al. 2018b, 2019, 2020), including how poorly mapped it is compared to other Planets.

Previous work also reviewed the benefits of Marine Reserves (Costello 2014, Costello and Ballantine 2015), criteria for prioritizing where to have MPA (Asaad et al. 2017), how connectivity is accommodated by representivity (Costello and Connor 12019), reviewed the distribution of marine biodiversity hotspots (Jefferson and Costello 2019), how to restore giant clams on coral ecosystems (Waters et al. 2013), why marine reserves provide resilience to the effects of climate change (Bates et al. 2019), and designed an MPA network for the Coral Triangle, the most species-rich area in the world oceans (Asaad et al. 2018a, 2018b, 2019a, 2019b).

References to prior publications

Asaad I, Lundquist CJ, Erdmann MV, Costello MJ 2017. Ecological criteria to identify areas for biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation 213, 309-316.

Asaad I, Lundquist CJ, Erdmann MV, and Costello MJ 2018a. Delineating priority areas for marine biodiversity conservation in the Coral Triangle. Biological Conservation 222, 198–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.03.037

Asaad I, Lundquist CJ, Erdmann MV, and Costello MJ 2018b. Designating spatial priorities for marine biodiversity conservation in the Coral Triangle. Frontiers in Marine Science 5, 400. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00400

Asaad, I., Lundquist, C. J., Erdmann, M. V., Costello, M. J. 2019a. An interactive atlas for marine biodiversity conservation in the Coral Triangle. Earth Syst. Sci. Data 11, 163-174. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2018-80.

Asaad I, Lundquist CJ, Erdmann MV, Costello MJ 2019b. The Coral Triangle: the most species rich marine region on earth. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. ISBN 9780124095489. 8 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11801-9

Basher Z, Costello MJ, 2019. World Maps of Ocean Environment Variables. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. 11 pp. ISBN 9780124095489. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.12076-7

Bates AE, Cooke RSC, Duncan MI, Edgar GJ, Bruno J, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Côté IM, Lefcheck JS, Costello MJ, Barrett N, Bird TJ, Fenberg PB, Stuart-Smith RD. 2019. Climate resilience in marine protected areas and the ‘Protection Paradox’. Biological Conservation 236, 305–314. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.05.005

Costello MJ. 2009. Distinguishing marine habitat classification concepts for ecological data management. Marine Ecology Progress Series 397, 253-268. http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v397/p253-268/

Costello MJ 2014. Long live Marine Reserves: A review of experiences and benefits. Biological Conservation 176, 289–296. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.04.023.

Costello MJ., Ballantine B. 2015. Biodiversity conservation should focus on no-take Marine Reserves. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30 (9), 507-509. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.06.011

Costello MJ, Breyer S. 2017. Ocean depths: the mesopelagic and implications for global warming. Current Biology 27 (1), R36-R38. DOI: 1016/j.cub.2016.11.042.

Costello MJ, Chaudhary C. 2017. Marine biodiversity, biogeography, deep-sea gradients, and conservation. Current Biology 27, R511–R527.

Costello MJ, Connor DW. 2019. Connectivity is generally not important for marine reserve planning. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 34(8), 686-688.

Costello MJ, Cheung A, De Hauwere N. 2010. Topography statistics for the surface and seabed area, volume, depth and slope, of the world’s seas, oceans and countries. Environmental Science and Technology 44, 8821-8828. Data at Available online at http://www.marineregions.org/. Consulted on 2014-08-14.

Costello MJ, Tsai P, Wong PS, Cheung A, Basher Z., Chaudhary C. 2017. Marine biogeographic realms and species endemicity. Nature Communications 8 (1057). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01121-2 Data and GIS files at Figshare: https://doi.org/10.17608/k6.auckland.5086654.v1 https://doi.org/10.17608/k6.auckland.5596840.v1

Costello MJ, Tsai P, Cheung A, Basher Z., Chaudhary C. 2018a. Reply to ‘Dissimilarity measures affected by richness differences yield biased delimitations of biogeographic realms’. Nature Communications 9, 5085. DOI 1038/s41467-018-07252-4 https://rdcu.be/bcbpe

Costello MJ, Basher Z, Sayre R. Breyer S, Wright D. 2018b. Stratifying ocean sampling globally and with depth to account for environmental variability. (Nature) Scientific Reports 8, 11259. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-29419-1. Direct download https://rdcu.be/3xmF

Costello MJ Harris PT, Pearce B, Fiorentino A, Bourillet J-F, Hamylton SM. 2019. A glossary of terminology used in marine biology, ecology, and geology. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. 11 pp. ISBN 9780124095489. 9 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11944-X

Costello MJ, Zhao Q, Jayathilake, DRM. 2020. Defining marine spatial units: realms, biomes, ecosystems, seascapes, habitats, biotopes, communities and guilds. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. 11 pp. ISBN 9780124095489. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.12515-1

Jayathilake D.R.M., Costello MJ. 2018. A modelled global distribution of the seagrass biome. Biological Conservation 226, 120-126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2018.07.009

Jayathilake DR, Costello MJ 2019a. Seagrass biome. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. ISBN 9780124095489. 6 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11748-8.

Jayathilake DR, Costello MJ 2019b. The kelp biome. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. ISBN 9780124095489. 6 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11768-3

Jefferson T, Costello MJ 2019. Hotspots of marine biodiversity. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. 11 pp. ISBN 9780124095489. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11952-9

Waters C, Storey R. Costello MJ. 2013. A methodology for recruiting a giant clam, Tridacna maxima, directly to natural substrata: a first step in reversing functional extinctions? Biological Conservation 160, 19-24.

Zhao, Q., Basher Z., Costello MJ. 2020. Mapping near surface global marine ecosystems through cluster analysis of environmental data. Ecological Research 35 (2), 327-342.

Zhao, Q., Costello MJ 2019a. Summer and winter ecosystems of the world ocean photic zone. Ecological Research 34 (4), 457-471. https://doi.org/10.1111/1440-1703.12006

Zhao Q, Costello MJ 2019b. Marine ecosystems of the world. In: Encyclopedia of the World’s Biomes. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier. ISBN 9780124095489. 3 pp. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11688-4


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