Ten Year Marine Biodiversity Census Finds New Ocean Species
The Census of Marine Life, a ten–year study of earth’s ocean ecosystems, has already produced more than 2,600 publications. The impact of this project on marine life conservation is yet to be completely understood, but information that will aid ocean conservation organizations in protecting marine biodiversity is already available.
Overview of the Census of Marine Life and Global Marine Biodiversity
The Census used National and Regional Implementation Committees (NRICs) to coordinate activities throughout fifteen designated regions. In addition to studying the marine ecosystems of each regions, the Census also looked at factors affecting the research such as how many research vessels and scientists were involved in each country.
Australia, where 32,889 aquatic species were identified ranked highest for biodiversity with Japan’s 32,777 species a close second. But South Korea, China, South Africa, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico recorded more species per unit area. Crustaceans, mollusks and fish accounted for about half of the variety of species
Census of Marine Life Finds New Species and Identifies Threats to the Ocean BIodiversity
The coordinated research conducted over the past ten years has done a great deal for ocean ecosystem knowledge. At least 1,200 new species of aquatic plants and animals were discovered or more completely described with many more still under study to determine whether they are new species or distinct subspecies or subpopulations.
Not surprisingly, the most serious threats found in all marine regions were overfishing, habitat loss and pollution. Increasing ocean temperatures, hypoxia and acidification were also among the most commonly noted threats. Impacts from aquaculture and maritime traffic were also reported, with the Mediterranean Region being an area where they were of highest concern.
Another potentially worrying finding was the high estimates of invasive alien species present in various ocean environments. Once again the Mediterranean Region, where 600 alien species were identified, seems to be the worst hit. This number represents about 4% of all species identified in the region. In several other regions, invasive alien species accounted for up to 2% of the marine life identified.
Census of Marine Life Shows Need for Further Marine Education
Despite the amount of information gathered during the Census of Marine Life, it is estimated that 70 to 80% of species in Australia, Japan, the Mediterranean deep sea, New Zealand and South Africa have yet to be identified. Based on this information, it is possible that there may be between 1 and 1.4 million marine species on earth.
Many of these creatures dwell in the deep ocean where advancing technology will make it easier to study them but in other cases it is simply a lack of funding or personnel to do the work needed to properly describe the species. Just as rainforest conservation efforts protect wildlife species that are just now being discovered and described, greater ocean conservation efforts are needed to ensure the future of as yet undiscovered marine species.