NSW Marine Parks Authority, NELSON BAY, AUSTRALIA
The New South Wales Marine Parks Authority aims to establish and manage a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to help conserve marine biodiversity and maintain marine ecosystem processes. Recent projects have attempted to systematically assess broadscale patterns of biodiversity within each of five NSW marine bioregions and identify where additional MPAs may be required. Because biodiversity is complex, dynamic and difficult to estimate, broadscale conservation assessments for MPAs in NSW have relied primarily on coarse surrogates for biodiversity as well as finer-scale community and species data where available. An hierarchical environmental classification of ecosystems, habitats, communities and species was developed in order to systematically assess gaps in the representation of biodiversity. The classification was mapped in a geographical information system (GIS) along with a range of other information on habitats, communities and species, potential threats to biodiversity and existing conservation measures. This information was assessed using models of MPA objectives, criteria and performance indicators and a range of qualitative and quantitative analyses including reserve selection tools and multiple-criteria decision analyses. This approach provided direct input into selection processes for MPAs and interactive decision support tools for ongoing planning and management.