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Census of Marine Life
Some of the first results of the Census of Marine Life are being published this month in the open access journal PLoS One. The Caribbean region is covered in the article titled Marine Biodiversity in the Caribbean: Regional Estimates and Distribution Patterns. Here’s an extract from the abstract:

This paper provides an analysis of the distribution patterns of marine biodiversity and summarizes the major activities of the Census of Marine Life program in the Caribbean region. The coastal Caribbean region is a large marine ecosystem (LME) characterized by coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, but including other environments, such as sandy beaches and rocky shores. These tropical ecosystems incorporate a high diversity of associated flora and fauna, and the nations that border the Caribbean collectively encompass a major global marine biodiversity hot spot. We analyze the state of knowledge of marine biodiversity based on the geographic distribution of georeferenced species records and regional taxonomic lists. A total of 12,046 marine species are reported in this paper for the Caribbean region. These include representatives from 31 animal phyla, two plant phyla, one group of Chromista, and three groups of Protoctista. Sampling effort has been greatest in shallow, nearshore waters, where there is relatively good coverage of species records; offshore and deep environments have been less studied.

And a rather sobering excerpt from the article itself:

The Caribbean contains the greatest concentration of marine species in the Atlantic Ocean and is a global-scale hot spot of marine biodiversity.

The growth of human population, particularly in coastal zones, and the environmental pressures imposed by economic growth and climate change pose great challenges to the future conservation of marine ecosystems and species diversity. In particular, the Caribbean Sea has large population densities, a long history of human use of marine resources, and remarkable land-based sources of pollution associated with oil production, port and tourism development, deforestation, and agriculture. The areal coverage of mangroves in the Caribbean has decreased by about 1% per year since 1980. Live coral cover has already declined by as much as 80% in many areas of Caribbean reefs over the last two decades because of various human activities and global warming, and 35% of the region’s fish stocks are overexploited.

You can read the entire article at the PLoS One website.

The Census of Marine Life is:

a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans.

The stated purpose of the Census of Marine Life is to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. Each plays an important role in what is known, unknown, and may never be known about what lives in the global ocean.

Find out more from Scientific American, Treehugger, and the Census website.

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