Three world-class oceanographic research institutions today announced a collaboration to conduct a global census of coral reef ecosystems aimed at estimating the numbers of reef species and determining their vulnerability to human stressors. Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will participate in this unprecedented global census of coral reefs (CReefs), one of 17 projects of the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a 10-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the oceans.
Coral reefs have been dubbed the rainforests of the sea because they are highly threatened repositories of extraordinary biodiversity, but little is known about the ocean's diversity as compared to its terrestrial counterpart.
Dr. Nancy Knowlton of Scripps Oceanography, CReefs lead principal investigator, said, "We don't even know to the nearest order of magnitude the number of species living in 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." What little information there is available is based on just a few groups, mainly corals, fishes, and some molluscs.
"Even more importantly, we do not have any clear understanding of how many reef -associated species can survive various levels of reef degradation," said Dr. Julian Caley of AIMS.
There is a lack of understanding of even the broad dynamics of reef collapse and recovery, which makes it difficult to predict what will happen to coral reefs as a consequence of human activities.
"Reef decline worldwide is troubling, just within the last three decaPage: 1 2 Related biology news :1
Contact: Wendy Ellery
Census of Marine Life
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