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First Biodiversity Census of coral reef ecosystems in the NW Hawaiian Islands

environmental impacts or changes. These groups of organisms are also the least understood, and many new species records for the NWHI, as well as the discovery of new species are likely during this expedition.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources Division Administrator Dr. Dan Polhemus, summarized the need for this type of survey in saying "we cannot properly manage what we don't know we have." Don Palawski, Refuge Manager for the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated that the biodiversity surveys being conducted during this expedition are "one of the priorities for conserving all the monument's natural resources."

The taxonomists, biologists specializing in the classification of these organisms, are donating their time and considerable expertise. "We plan to provide for the State of Hawaii a baseline record of the diversity of a relatively pristine area in order to have some basic working knowledge of what lives in the NWHI chain. There will never be any way to measure impact on the environment without first knowing what is there" said Dr. Joel Martin, Chief of the Division of Invertebrate Studies and Curator of Crustacea, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Coral reefs are highly threatened repositories of extraordinary biodiversity and therefore have been called "the rainforests of the sea", but little is known about the ocean's diversity as compared to its terrestrial counterpart.

According to Dr. Nancy Knowlton of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, CReefs lead principal investigator, "We don't even know to the nearest order of magnitude the number of species living in the coral reefs around the globe. Our best guess is somewhere between 1 and 9 million species based on comparisons with the diversity found in rainforests and a partial count of organisms living in a tropical aquarium." <
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Contact: Megan Moews
megan.moews@noaa.gov
808-983-3745
Census of Marine Life
10-Oct-2006


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