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Consequences of global shipping traffic for marine giants

Pirotta, Vanessa, Grech, Alana, Jonsen, Ian D, Laurance, William F, Harcourt, Robert G
Frontiers in ecology and the environment 2019 v.17 no.1 pp. 39-47
Cetorhinus maximus, Rhincodon typus, ecology, environmental impact, marine environment, roads, shipping, traffic, whales
Shipping routes in the ocean are analogous to terrestrial roads, in that they are regularly used thoroughfares that concentrate the movement of vessels between multiple locations. We applied a terrestrial road ecology framework to examine the ecological impacts of increased global shipping on “marine giants” (ie great whales, basking sharks [Cetorhinus maximus], and whale sharks [Rhincodon typus]). This framework aided in identifying where such “marine roads” and marine giants are likely to interact and the consequences of those interactions. We also reviewed known impacts of shipping routes on these species, and then applied the road ecology framework to detect unknown and potentially threatening processes. In the marine environment, such a framework can be used to incorporate knowledge of existing shipping impacts into management practices, thereby reducing the detrimental effects of future expansion of shipping routes on marine giants.