Says lead author Derek Tittensor of Dalhousie University, "it was striking how consistently temperature was linked with marine diversity. This relationship suggests that ocean warming, such as that due to climate change, may rearrange the distribution of oceanic life." Co-author Walter Jetz of Yale University notes "while we are increasingly aware of global gradients in diversity and their associated environmental factors, our knowledge of patterns in the ocean has lagged behind that of patterns on land. Our study attempts to help overcome this disparity."
The study also assessed the overlap between hotspots of marine diversity and human impacts, i.e. the combined effects of fishing, habitat alteration, climate change and pollution. Human impacts were found to be particularly concentrated in areas of high diversity, suggesting the potential for severe species losses in these regions. Says co-author Camilo Mora of Dalhousie University, "the combined effects of exploitation, habitat alteration, pollution and climate change are threatening the diversity of life in the global ocean. Our research provides further evidence that limiting ocean warming and other human impacts will be particularly important in securing these hotspots of marine biodiversity into the future."
Co-author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University also highlights the need to maintain biodiversity in the face of these impacts: "biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems are often tightly coupled, with highly diverse ecosystems providing more goods and services that benefit human beings, as well as being more resilient in the face of disturbance, than less diverse ecosystems. The observed concentration of human impacts in our richest marine areas is a worrying indication of our growing footprint in the oceans."
Many of the data used for this study come from the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS, http://www.iobis.org), a public database
|Contact: Charles Crosby|