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Mark Spalding

Senior Marine Scientist

Mark is a marine scientist with a passion for the world’s oceans. He has worked for TNC since 2004, and is based out of the Conservation Science Laboratory in the University of Cambridge (where he also does a small amount of lecturing). Prior to joining the Conservancy, Mark worked for the United Nations Environment Programme. He also worked in the field, looking at coral reefs and fish populations, notably around a number of remote islands in the Indian Ocean.

Mark’s work centres on the assessment of global marine biodiversity. For many year years this work could be summed up in 3 broad questions: What is where in the ocean? What state is it in? What are we doing about it? These questions led to Mark’s authorship on a host of acclaimed publications from the World Atlas of Coral Reefs in 2001 to the World Atlas of Mangroves in 2010. Mark led the description of the world’s marine ecoregions and provinces which have become critical tools in understanding patterns in marine biodiversity and in prioritising actions. He has also regularly published maps and statistics tracking conservation progress through the development of marine protected areas around the world. This is not static observation and, with partners, he has regularly sought to use detailed scientific description and enumeration to challenge current trends and boost global conservation efforts.

Mark’s most recent work focuses on the enumeration of ecosystem services and he is co-leading TNC’s new Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative. While conservation has tended to focus on “nature for nature’s sake” there is a growing realisation that we should also be protecting nature in many places for “people’s sake”. All too often we often overlook or undervalue a host of benefits that nature provides to people – food, coastal protection, water purification, recreational benefits and carbon storage, to name a few. If we can accurately understand and model how much these services are worth, in terms of jobs, food security, economic wealth or other metrics, we should be able to drive a fundamental change in attitudes across society. Nature conservation for human benefits is no longer a niche interest. It becomes the job of central government, local communities, industry, engineering, planning, insurance, banking and many more. What is urgently needed is the accurate science to prove the case and support the implementation, and alongside this the skilful and reasoned communication of such knowledge. Mark is fully engaged in these efforts.


Selected publications

Go to University of Cambridge for a full list


Mark D. Spalding, A. L. McIvor, M. W. Beck, E. W. Koch, I. Möller, D. J. Reed, P. Rubinoff, T. Spencer, T. J. Tolhurst, T. V. Wamsley, B. K. v. Wesenbeeck, E. Wolanski, and C. D. Woodroffe. 2013. Coastal ecosystems: a critical element of risk reduction. Conservation Letters.

James Hutchison, Andrea Manica, Ruth Swetnam, Andrew Balmford, and Mark Spalding, "Predicting global patterns in the carbon storage of mangrove forests," Conservation Letters (2013).

Mark D. Spalding, Imèn Meliane, Amy Milam, Claire Fitzgerald, and Lynne Z. Hale, "Protecting Marine Spaces: global targets and changing approaches," Ocean Yearbook 27, 213-248 (2013).


Philine S E Zu Ermgassen, Mark D. Spalding, Brady Blake, Loren D. Coen, Brett Dumbauld, Steve Geiger, Jonathan H. Grabowski, Raymond Grizzle, Mark Luckenbach, Kay McGraw, Bill Rodney, Jennifer L. Ruesink, Sean P. Powers, and Robert Brumbaugh, "Historical ecology with real numbers: Past and present extent and biomass of an imperilled estuarine habitat," Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2012).

Mark Spalding, Vera Agostini, Susie Grant, and Jake Rice, "Pelagic provinces of the world: a biogeographic classification of the world’s surface pelagic waters," Ocean and Coastal Management 90, 19-30 (2012).


L. Burke, K Reytar, M. Spalding, and Allison L. Perry, Reefs at Risk Revisited. (World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, WorldFish Center, International Coral Reef Action Network, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Washington, D.C., 2011).


Mark D. Spalding, M Kainuma, and Lorna Collins, World Atlas of Mangroves. Earthscan, London, (2010).


M. Spalding, L. Fish, and L. Wood, "Towards representative protection of the world’s coasts and oceans – progress, gaps and opportunities," Conservation Letters 1 (5), 217-226 (2008).

Jennifer L. Molnar, Rebecca L. Gamboa, Carmen Revenga, and Mark D. Spalding, "Assessing the global threat of invasive species to marine biodiversity," Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6 (9), 485-492 (2008).

Benjamin S. Halpern, Shaun Walbridge, Kimberly A. Selkoe, Carrie V. Kappel, Fiorenza Micheli, Caterina D'Agrosa, John F. Bruno, Kenneth S. Casey, Colin Ebert, Helen E. Fox, Rod Fujita, Dennis Heinemann, Hunter S. Lenihan, Elizabeth M.P. Madin, Matthew T. Perry, Elizabeth R. Selig, Mark Spalding, Robert Steneck, and Reg Watson, "A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems," Science 319, 948-952 (2008).

S. Chape, M. Spalding, and M. Jenkins, The World's Protected Areas. Status, values, and prospects in the twenty-first century. (University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 2008).


Mark D. Spalding, Helen E. Fox, Gerald R. Allen, Nick Davidson, Zach A. Ferdaña, Max Finlayson, Benjamin S. Halpern, Miguel A. Jorge, Al Lombana, Sara A. Lourie, Kirsten D. Martin, Edmund McManus, Jennifer Molnar, Cheri A. Recchia, and James Robertson, "Marine Ecoregions of the World: a bioregionalization of coast and shelf areas," BioScience 57 (7), 573-583 (2007).


M. D. Spalding, A Guide to the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean. University of California Press, Berkeley, USA, 2004.


C. M. Roberts, C. J. McLean, G. R. Allen, J. P. Hawkins, D. E. McAllister, C. Mittermeier, F. Schueler, M. Spalding, J. E. N. Veron, F. Wells, C. Vynne, and T. Werner, "Marine biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for tropical reefs," Science 295, 1280-1284 (2002).


M. D. Spalding, C. Ravilious, and E. P. Green, World Atlas of Coral Reefs. University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 2001.

Mark Spalding

Senior Marine Scientist

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