In this study we reviewed the use of genetic information in the Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). We also evaluated genetic indicators for each criterion of important marine areas. We proposed five genetic indices, mainly based on microsatellite analysis (e.g., private allele frequency and number of cryptic species), then selected EBSAs in tropical and temperate zones of Japan based on eight coral species as a case study. Finally, we compared the results with the findings from conventional species-based EBSAs. In the EBSAs genetic information was mainly used in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the Baltic Sea; it was rarely applied in the Southern Hemisphere and Asian regions. Although typically applied to large organisms, genetic information is used to various organisms, including benthic and bacterial communities. Genetic data are used as indicators of diversity and endemism. Genetic indices were available for all seven EBSA criteria, but only five indices of three criteria were used. Examination of important areas of corals in the temperate zone using these indices showed that the indices without genetic indicators extracted a large number of important areas in the tropics; however, the use of genetic indicators identified important locations, including in temperate zones. Comparison with conventional, mainly species-based non-genetic methods showed less than 50% agreement, although particularly important sites in marine protected areas were identified by both methods. While there is still more work to be done, such as consideration of the number of survey sites or target species, one reason is that species-based methods tend to evaluate tropical areas higher. Therefore, these genetic indices are useful for examining important regions, particularly in temperate zones; they revealed cryptic lineages, indicating that many unknown marine taxa should be considered in vulnerable marine areas. Some indicators could be extracted with additional effort, such as population size estimation, immigration, or the use of next-generation sequencing, thus guiding future studies. Because limited genetic information was available in the early stages of EBSA selection, there is a need for systematic surveys and evaluations, particularly in the Southern hemisphere, Asian region, and in small organisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change
- Aquatic Science
- Water Science and Technology
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
- Ocean Engineering