The aims of this study were to determine the extent and distribution of an OSPAR priority habitat under current baseline ocean temperatures; to illustrate the prospect for habitat loss under a changing ocean temperature scenario; and to demonstrate the potential application of predictive habitat mapping in "future-proofing" conservation and biodiversity management.
Maxent modelling and GIS environmental envelope analysis of the biogenic bed forming species, Modiolus modiolus was carried out. The Maxent model was tested and validated using 75%/25% training/test occurrence records and validated against two sampling biases (the whole study area and a 20km buffer). The model was compared to the envelope analysis and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (Area Under the curve; AUC) was evaluated.
The performance of the Maxent model was rated as 'good' to 'excellent' on all replicated runs and low variation in the runs was recorded from the AUC values. The extent of "most suitable", "less suitable" and "unsuitable" habitat was calculated for the baseline year (2009) and the projected increased ocean temperature scenarios (2030, 2050, 2080 and 2100). A loss of 100% of "most suitable" habitat was reported by 2080.
Maintaining a suitable level of protection of marine habitats/species of conservation importance may require management of the decline and migration rather than maintenance of present extent. Methods applied in this study provide the initial application of a plausible "conservation management tool".