Satellite Remote Sensing in Shark and Ray Ecology, Conservation and Management
Global elasmobranch populations have declined dramatically over the past 50 years, and continued research into the drivers of their habitats and distributions is vital for improved conservation and management. How environmental factors influence elasmobranch behavior, habitat use, and movement patterns is still relatively poorly understood, in part because of the scale over which many of these animals roam and the remote nature of the marine ecosystems they inhabit. In the last decade there has been an explosion of satellite remote sensing (SRS) technologies that can cover these vast spatial scales for the marine environment. Consequentially, SRS presents an opportunity to analyze important environmental drivers in elasmobranch ecology and to aid management decisions for the conservation of declining populations. A systematic literature review was undertaken to synthesize the current use of SRS environmental data in elasmobranch research. In addition, to facilitate the use of SRS in this field moving forward, we have compiled a list of popular SRS data sources and sensors for common environmental variables in marine science. Our review of 71 papers (55 published in the last 10 years) identified ten SRS-derived environmental variables that have been used in elasmobranch studies, from a range of satellite sensors and data sources. Sea surface temperature and ocean productivity were the most frequently used variables. Articles primarily analyzed variables individually or in pairs, with few studies looking at a suite of interacting variables. Here, we present a summary of the current state of knowledge on the application of SRS, current gaps and limitations, and discuss some of the potential future directions in which we envisage this field developing. Threatened elasmobranch populations inhabit some of the world’s most remote marine ecosystems. With often global coverage, SRS presents an opportunity to analyze the important environmental drivers of elasmobranch ecology to aid management decisions for the conservation of declining and threatened populations.