Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kelp, copepods, capelin...and coral?

¨No more seafood by 2050¨ was -- as Deborah Mackenzie and editorial colleagues at New Scientist rightly say -- the take home message in the press reporting of what is said to be the biggest ever analysis of marine biodiversity. But the key point, they argue (and described in the title of the study: Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services - Science, 3 Nov 06), is actually more profound:
The bottom line is that if we want to keep protein production (and our oxygen source, and our pollution sink) functioning, we need to save the whale and the kelp, the copepods, the capelin and everything else...For its ecosystem services to work -- for the ocean to absorb pollution and provide us with food -- it needs all its parts intact.
Data for 64 large marine ecosystems shows that fisheries are collapsing at a higher rate in species-poor ecosystems than in species-rich ecosystems, writes Erik Stoksad in an overview of the paper for Science. But, he reports, some scientists are saying that it's difficult to prove that loss of diversity *causes* the decline in services.

An exchange in the same edition of Science asks how protected are coral reefs? Mark Spalding and others criticize C Mora et al for saying that only 2% of reefs are adequately protected. About 22.6% enjoy some form of legal protection, they say, and this is progress. Mora et al reply they found less than 0.1% of reefs are within marine protected areas that fully protect diversity, "MPAs worldwide are, for the most part, poorly effective and...current efforts to reverse the existing crisis of coral reefs fall far short of what is required to save these most diverse of all marine habitats".

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