Historical and ecological drivers of the spatial pattern of Chondrichthyes species richness in the Mediterranean Sea
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Chondrichthyes, which include Elasmobranchii (sharks and batoids) and Holocephali (chimaeras), are a relatively small group in the Mediterranean Sea (89 species) playing a key role in the ecosystems where they are found. At present, many species of this group are threatened as a result of anthropogenic effects, including fishing activity. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of these species is of great importance to understand their ecological role and for the efficient management of their populations, particularly if affected by fisheries. This study aims to analyze the spatial patterns of the distribution of Chondrichthyes species richness in the Mediterranean Sea. Information provided by the studied countries was used to model geographical and ecological variables affecting the Chondrichthyes species richness. The species were distributed in 16 Operational Geographical Units (OGUs), derived from the Geographical Sub-Areas (GSA) adopted by the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean Sea (GFCM). Regression analyses with the species richness as a target variable were adjusted with a set of environmental and geographical variables, being the model that links richness of Chondrichthyes species with distance to the Strait of Gibraltar and number of taxonomic families of bony fishes the one that best explains it. This suggests that both historical and ecological factors affect the current distribution of Chondrichthyes within the Mediterranean Sea. © 2017 Meléndez et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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