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Researchers call for marine observation network

11.04.2013
Coordination of efforts and automation of existing technology seen as key

A comprehensive marine biodiversity observation network could be established with modest funding within 5 years, according to an expert assessment published in the May 2013 issue of BioScience.

Such a network would fill major gaps in scientists' understanding of the global distribution of marine organisms, which are under unprecedented threat from climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing. The network would help resolve conflicts over ocean management and identify threats such as invasions by exotic species before they became obvious, according to the authors of the assessment, who were led by J. Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Many of the components of a marine biodiversity observation network already exist, although much could be done to incentivize cooperation, the assessment notes. Far more is known about shallow waters than deeper waters. The key need is to relate observations of biodiversity to prevailing environmental conditions. Expanding automation of acoustic and imaging technology would help, as would digitizing historical records.

The European Union and New Zealand have already built regional data systems, but existing data about US waters are not so readily available. The authors of the BioScience article suggest that the United States' many interests in the oceans over a wide area mean it has a special obligation to monitor them and to safeguard the services they supply. A national marine biodiversity observation network could feature sites established along both the East and West US coasts as well as nodes specializing in deep-sea observations and coral reefs.

BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS; http://www.aibs.org). BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is a meta-level organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations. The article by Duffy and colleagues can be accessed ahead of print at http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/ until early June.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the May, 2013, issue of BioScience is as follows. These are now published ahead of print.

The Overlooked Terrestrial impacts of Mountaintop Mining.
James Wickham, Petra Bohall Wood, Matthew C. Nicholson, William Jenkins, Daniel Druckenbrod, Glenn W. Suter, Michael P. Strager, Christine Mazzarella, Walter Galloway, and John Amos
Envisioning a Marine Biodiversity Observation Network.
J. Emmett Duffy, Linda A. Amaral-Zettler, Daphne G. Fautin, Gustav Paulay, Tatiana A. Rynearson, Heidi M. Sosik, and John J. Stachowicz
Intentional Fragmentation as a Management Strategy in Aquatic Systems.
Frank J. Rahel
Assembling, Governing, and Debating an Emerging Science: The Rise of Synthetic Biology in France.

Morgan Meyer

Instruction Matters for Nature of Science Understanding in College Biology Laboratories.

Elisabeth E. Schussler, Nazan U. Bautista, Melanie A. Link-Pérez, Nancy G. Solomon, and Bruce A. Steinly

Opportunities for improving Aquatic Restoration science and Monitoring Through the Use of Animal Electronic-Tagging Technology.

Nicolas W. R. Lapointe, Jason D. Thiem, Susan E. Doka, and Steven J. Cooke

The Last Call for Marine Wilderness?
Nicholas A. J. Graham and Tim R. McClanahan

Tim Beardsley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aibs.org

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