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Scientists stress need for national marine biodiversity observation network
Date:4/10/2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- With ocean life facing unprecedented threat from climate change, overfishing, pollution, invasive species and habitat destruction, a University of Florida researcher is helping coordinate national efforts to monitor marine biodiversity.

Humans depend on the ocean for food, medicine, transportation and recreation, yet little is known about how these vast ecosystems spanning 70 percent of the Earth's surface are functioning and changing. Following a workshop sponsored by U.S. federal agencies in 2010, researchers at eight institutions have proposed a blueprint for establishing a cooperative marine biodiversity observation network to monitor trends in marine ecosystem health and the distribution and abundance of oceanic life. The research will appear online in BioScience Thursday and in the journal's May print issue.

Biodiversity observation networks are indispensible tools, allowing scientists to follow and predict ecosystem changes to facilitate proactive responses to environmental pressures, said study co-author Gustav Paulay, invertebrate zoology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

"Biodiversity is important not only because it's what the natural world is about, but also because tracking it tells you how healthy things are," Paulay said. "As an indicator of ecosystem health and resilience, biodiversity is key for sustaining oceans that face accelerating environmental change."

Experts determined a national marine biodiversity observation network could be established using existing technology within five years with appropriate funding and collaboration, but the effort requires strong leadership to integrate all the necessary elements, Paulay said. The study provides a series of recommendations, including coordination of existing efforts, digitization of historical data -- including vast museum collections and establishment of regional centers to process and ide
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Contact: Gustav Paulay
paulay@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-273-1948
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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