Marine biodiversity

I-Hsien Porter

The Census of Marine Life was published earlier this month, after a decade-long study by hundreds of scientists across the world. A total of 201,000 species were listed, but there may be up to 750,000 more species that are yet to be identified.

The census provides a baseline against which changes in biodiversity can be monitored. Many species are under pressure from climate change and pollution.

In a paper in The Geographical Journal, Liam Carr and William Heyman investigate the management of coastal marine resources in the Caribbean. The high biodiversity of the Caribbean is a resource for subsistence living, commercial fishing and tourism.

However, these activities aren’t without their conflicts. Marine resources are threatened by over-exploitation, as the tourism industry forces local people to widen the scope and intensity of fishing activities.

Carr and Heyman argue the need for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), where active conservation, education and enforcement of sustainable resource management practices take place. If focused on breeding grounds, MPAs can replenish biodiversity and fish stocks, with benefits beyond the immediate area. However, to be effective, MPAs must be introduced now, to maintain the health and resilience of threatened ecosystems, rather than attempting to repair damage after it has occurred.

Marine biodiversity faces a range of pressures and challenges. However, with prompt action, it might be possible to mitigate the effects of future change.

The Guardian (4th October 2010) Census of Marine Life

The Guardian (4th October 2010) TV Review: ‘Horizon: The Death of the Oceans?’

Carr, L M and Heyman, W. D. (2009) ‘Jamaica bound? Marine resources and management at a crossroads in Antigua and Barbuda’ The Geographical Journal 175 (1): 17-38

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