Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

Committee Director

Kent E. Carpenter

Committee Member

Beth Polidoro

Committee Member

Sara Maxwell


Anthropocene biodiversity extinction rates are increasing, suggesting a possible sixth global mass extinction event. Biological conservation planners are consequently seeking ways to more effectively protect species at national, regional and global scales. In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) issued a number of conservation goals (Aichi Targets), including the establishment of protected areas (PA) in terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas of eminent conservation concern by 2020 to reduce and eventually eliminate species’ extinctions, as well as preserve hotspots of biodiversity and dynamic ecosystems. While well-established, adequately enforced PAs increase the likelihood of preserving species and habitats most at risk of extirpation, traditional methods of choosing where to place PAs are frequently inadequate in targeting biodiversity most in need of conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), therefore, formulated a set of criteria and thresholds using quantitative and transparent selection methods to iteratively identify sites where species and habitats are most urgently in need of protection. The identification of these Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) utilizes species-specific spatial occurrence and population data and species’ threat statuses, to locate areas where site-specific protection measures can effectively slow or halt the extinction of species. This study uses species-specific data provided on IUCN’s Red List website and other online data repositories to identify marine KBAs in the Greater Caribbean region using the newly refined, 2016 IUCN KBA criteria and thresholds in order to address the question of if these criteria are effective for marine environments and to understand how this process may improve PA site selection in the greater Caribbean region. Even though previous analyses have identified marine KBAs for threatened species, this study is one of the first attempts to identify KBAs for geographically restricted species in the marine environment. The identified KBAs provide logical starting points for local stakeholders and conservation specialists to verify KBA thresholds and boundaries using localized national and regional datasets. Furthermore, this study will identify significant data gaps in the knowledge of marine species’ occurrences that may prevent the full application of the KBA criteria to all marine species.