Thursday, December 4, 2008

Antarctic Diversity

The Census of Marine Life is, without exaggeration, fantastic. It has discovered new species, explored previously unknown habitats, and compiled reams of valuable data on marine environments and ecosystems. It has also overturned assumptions about polar environments, namely that they are less diverse than tropical areas. A recently released study that was part of the COML discovered that the land and sea areas around the South Orkney Islands in Antarctica contained over 1200 species, including five new species. This means that the region is more biodiverse than the famous Galapagos Islands. Obtaining this kind of information is critical because without it, scientists and policymakers would find it difficult to monitor and quantify the impact of human activities or anthropogenic climate change on marine environments. Additionally, as demonstrated by the South Orkney Islands study, the COML has the potential to provide scientists with a fuller understanding of oceans and marine environments. The ramifications of this research are clearly huge - even the NYTimes published an editorial about the study!

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