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Mark Spalding

Senior Marine Scientist

Mark works for our Global Oceans Team. He is a marine scientist with a passion for the world’s oceans. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy since 2004, and is based out of the Department of Physical, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Siena, Italy, while also remaining part 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 has also worked in the field, looking at coral reefs and fish populations, notably around a number of remote islands in the Indian Ocean. Independent of his work with the Conservancy Mark also acts in a part-time role as Chief Scientist to the Government of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Mark’s career has largely focused on global scale assessment of marine biodiversity. Broadly asking: 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. He co-wrote several of the Reefs at Risk Publications, led the development of major biogeographic classifications for the world’s coastal and pelagic waters, and has regularly reviewed protected areas coverage of the world’s oceans.

Mark’s most recent work focuses on the enumeration of ecosystem services and he is co-leading TNC’s 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, and the Mapping Ocean Wealth work is leading and supporting projects around carbon storage, fisheries enhancement, coastal protection and tourism values from ecosystems from coral reefs to mangroves, to pelagic waters.


Selected publications

Go to University of Cambridge for a full list


Butchart, SHM, Clarke, M, … Spalding, M, et al (2015) Shortfalls and solutions for meeting national and global conservation area targets. Conservation Letters 1-9.

Hutchison, J, Philipp, DP, Claussen, JE, Aburto‐Oropeza, O, Carrasquilla‐Henao, M, Castellanos‐Galindo, GA, Costa, MT, Daneshgar, PD, Hartmann, HJ, Juanes, F, Khan, MN, Knowles, L, Knudsen, E, Lee, SY, Murchie, KJ, Tiedemann, J, zu Ermgassen, P, Spalding, M (2015) Building an expert‐judgement based model of mangrove fisheries. American Fisheries Society Symposium 83, 17-42.

Hutchison, J, zu Ermgassen, P, Spalding, M (2015) The current state of knowledge on mangrove fishery values. American Fisheries Society Symposium 83, 3-15.

Kasoar, T, Ermgassen, PSEz, Carranza, A, Hancock, B, Spalding, M (2015) New opportunities for conservation of a threatened biogenic habitat: a worldwide assessment of knowledge on bivalve reef representation in marine and coastal Ramsar Sites. Marine and Freshwater Research 8.

Keith, DA, Rodríguez, JP, Brooks, TM, Burgman, MA, Barrow, EG, Bland, L, Comer, PJ, Franklin, J, Link, J, McCarthy, MA, Miller, RM, Murray, NJ, Nel, J, Nicholson, E, Olivera-Miranda, MA, Regan, TJ, Rodríguez-Clark, KM, Rouget, M, Spalding, MD (2015) The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: motivations, challenges and applications. Conservation Letters

McIvor, A, Spencer, T, Spalding, M, Lacambra, C, Möller, I (2015) Mangroves, tropical cyclones and coastal hazard risk reduction. In Coastal and Marine Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. (Eds JT Ellis, DJ Sherman.) pp. 403-429. (Elsevier: Amsterdam)

Rodriguez, JP, Keith, DA, Rodriguez-Clark, KM, Murray, NJ, Nicholson, E, Regan, TJ, Miller, RM, Barrow, EG, Bland, LM, Boe, K, Brooks, TM, Oliveira-Miranda, MA, Spalding, M, Wit, P (2015) A practical guide to the application of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Spalding, MD, Brown, BE (2015) Warm-water coral reefs and climate change. Science 350, 769-771.

Sutherland, WJ, … Spalding, MD, et al (2015) A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2015. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 30, 17-24.

Zu Ermgassen, PSE, Spalding, MD, Brumbaugh, R (2015) Estimates of historical ecosystem service provision can guide restoration efforts. In Applying Marine Historical Ecology to Conservation and Management: Using the Past to Manage for the Future. (Eds JN Kittinger, L McClenachan, KB Gedan, LK Blight.) pp. 187-206.


Spalding, MD, Ruffo, S, Lacambra, C, Meliane, I, Hale, LZ, Shepard, CC, Beck, MW (2014) The role of ecosystems in coastal protection: adapting to climate change and coastal hazards. Ocean and Coastal Management 90, 50-57.

Sutherland, WJ, … M. Spalding, et al (2014) Solution scanning as a key policy tool: identifying management interventions to help maintain and enhance regulating ecosystem services. Ecology and Society 19, 3.

Sutherland, WJ, … Spalding, MD, et al (2014) A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2014. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29, 15-22.


Keith, DA, …Spalding, MD, et al (2013) Scientific foundations for an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. PLoS ONE 8, e62111.

Spalding, MD, Meliane, I, Milam, A, Fitzgerald, C, Hale, LZ (2013) Protecting Marine Spaces: global targets and changing approaches. Ocean Yearbook 27, 213-248.

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).

Sutherland, WJ, … Spalding, MD, et al (2013) A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2013. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28, 16-22.

Zu Ermgassen, PSE, Gray, MW, Langdon, CJ, Spalding, MD, Brumbaugh, R (2013) Quantifying the historic contribution of Olympia oysters to filtration in Pacific Coast (USA) estuaries, and the implications for restoration objectives. Aquatic Ecology 47, 149-161.

Zu Ermgassen, PSE, Spalding, MD, Blake, B, Coen, LD, Dumbauld, B, Geiger, S, Grabowski, JH, Grizzle, R, Luckenbach, M, McGraw, K, Rodney, B, Ruesink, JL, Powers, SP, Brumbaugh, R (2012) Historical ecology with real numbers: Past and present extent and biomass of an imperilled estuarine habitat. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Zu Ermgassen, PSE, Spalding, MD, Grizzle, R, Brumbaugh, R (2013) Quantifying the loss of a marine ecosystem service: filtration by the Eastern Oyster in US estuaries. Estuaries and Coasts 36, 36-43.


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).

Van Lavieren, H, Spalding, M, Alongi, D, Kainuma, M, Clüsener-Godt, M, Adeel, Z (2012) Securing the Future of Mangroves. A Policy Brief. (UNU-INWEH, UNESCO MAB with ISME, ITTO, FAO, UNEP WCMC and TNC: Hamilton, Canada)


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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