Protect the `Serengetis of the Sea' before It's Too Late, Say Biologists ; Scientists Discover Areas of Biological Diversity Which Require Unprecedented Protection from Fishing to Prevent the Oceans from Dying

By Steve Connor Science Editor | The Independent (London, England), August 6, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Protect the `Serengetis of the Sea' before It's Too Late, Say Biologists ; Scientists Discover Areas of Biological Diversity Which Require Unprecedented Protection from Fishing to Prevent the Oceans from Dying


Steve Connor Science Editor, The Independent (London, England)


SCIENTISTS HAVE identified "rainforests" under the oceans where biological diversity is at its greatest. And these wildlife hotspots should be preserved to give the marine environment a chance of recovering from decades of over-exploitation, the researchers said.

Boris Worm of the University of Kiel, Germany, and Ransom Myers of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, want the major nations of the world to demarcate thousands of square miles of the open water for unprecedented environmental protection.

In effect, they want the oceans to have their own national parks where any form of industrial or large-scale fishing is banned, regions they describe as the "Serengetis of the sea" after the famous wildlife park in East Africa.

"We have discovered for the first time in the open ocean there are hotspots of species diversity which we have meta-phorically called ocean Serengetis," Dr Worm said. "We were looking for the equivalent of the Serengeti on land, which is an area that is important for many large animals but also where they are vulnerable to exploitation," he said.

The oceans are home to a vast array of animals and plants, from the smallest plankton to the largest whales. Life in this world is, however, mostly invisible, little understood and, in many respects, as mysterious as outer space.

Not too long ago, scientists believed the oceans were so vast they were essentially immune to the destructive activities of humankind. No matter what we did to the land, we imagined that the sea would remain a pristine and bountiful resource.

A series of studies published over the past two years has shattered that naive belief. Teams of marine biologists analysed the powerful evidence showing the oceans are in fact dying. Using data gathered by the highly destructive long-line fishing industry, Dr Worm and Dr Myers located the areas of the North Atlantic, and the North and South Pacific where the long-line fishermen caught the most abundant and most diverse range of animals - ranging from the actual targets of their trade, such as tuna and marlin, to the "bycatch" animals such as turtles, dolphins and albatross.

"We concentrated on large species such as shark and tuna to find those special places, to find out whether they existed and, if so, where they were," Dr Worm said.

"It was surprising to find out that these major species - which roam the entire ocean basins - tend to aggregate relatively close to the major landmasses," he said. "It's not somewhere way out in the open ocean, it tends to be a few hundred miles from land."

They found the biodiversity hotspots tended to be in subtropical waters between 20 degrees and 30 degrees north and south of the equator.

That contrasts with the terrestrial hotspots, such as rainforests, which invariably occur in the tropics. One possible reason why subtropical waters are rich in species diversity is because they are regions where cold and warm-water animals can live side by side.

But the scientists also discovered these Serengetis of the high seas needed some other geological or geophysical features, such as intersecting currents bringing warm and cold water together, to create the necessary habitat for a hotspot to survive.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Protect the `Serengetis of the Sea' before It's Too Late, Say Biologists ; Scientists Discover Areas of Biological Diversity Which Require Unprecedented Protection from Fishing to Prevent the Oceans from Dying
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?