New tool for marine conservation

In the July/August 2007 issue of BioScience, Mark D. Spalding of The Nature Conservancy and fourteen colleagues from around the world describe a new biogeographic classification of the worlds marine coastal and shelf areas, Marine Ecoregions of the World, that is expected to be a valuable tool for conservation planning.

The new, hierarchical system is synthesized from past global and regional classifications and extensive expert consultation. It includes 232 distinct ecoregions nested within 62 provinces that are in turn grouped into 12 realms. Each ecoregion has a relatively homogenous and distinct species composition. The classification, which avoids significant limitations of older schemes, is based on organisms found both in the sea and on the sea bottom and is considered likely to be useful out to a depth of 200 meters. Coastal and shelf waters have greater species numbers and higher productivity than the adjacent deep ocean, and are biogeographically distinct.

Spalding and colleagues believe their classification scheme will enable marine gap analyses, an important approach for identifying areas crucial for conserving endangered species, as well as other types of studies on coastal and shelf biodiversity. The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund already have begun to use the Marine Ecoregions of the World system.


Contact: Jennifer Williams
American Institute of Biological Sciences

Page: 1

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