Teeming with millions of species, tropical coral reefs have been long thought to be the areas of greatest biodiversity for fishes and other marine lifeand thus most deserving of resources for conservation.
But a new global study of reef fishes reveals a surprise: when measured by factors other than the traditional species countinstead using features such as a species' role in an ecosystem or the number of individuals within a speciesnew hotspots of biodiversity emerge, including some nutrient-rich, temperate waters.
The study, by an international team of researchers including graduate student Jon Lefcheck and Professor Emmett Duffy of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science, appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.
Led by Dr. Rick Stuart-Smith of the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the study team also includes researchers from Stockholm University, the University of Bologna, Stanford University, the Natural Products and Agrobiology Institute in Tenerife, Spain, the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia Marine Program, the University of Dundee, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and the University of Portsmouth.
The study is based on information collected through the Reef Life Survey program, a 'citizen science' initiative developed in Tasmania. The RLS program now operates worldwide, training recreational SCUBA divers to survey numbers of reef animals and supporting their research endeavors.
Stuart-Smith and fellow RLS founder Graham Edgar, also a University of Tasmania professor, highlight the central role the volunteer divers played in contributing to the new study. "The assistance of over 100 dedicated divers has allowed us to look at ecological patterns and processes impossible for scientific dive teams to cover," says Edgar.
The number of different species in an ecosystemwhat researchers ca
|Contact: David Malmquist|
Virginia Institute of Marine Science