In the July/August 2007 issue of BioScience, Mark D. Spalding of The Nature Conservancy and fourteen colleagues from around the world describe a new biogeographic classification of the world’s marine coastal and shelf areas, Marine Ecoregions of the World, that is expected to be a valuable tool for conservation planning.
The new, hierarchical system is synthesized from past global and regional classifications and extensive expert consultation. It includes 232 distinct ecoregions nested within 62 provinces that are in turn grouped into 12 realms. Each ecoregion has a relatively homogenous and distinct species composition. The classification, which avoids significant limitations of older schemes, is based on organisms found both in the sea and on the sea bottom and is considered likely to be useful out to a depth of 200 meters. Coastal and shelf waters have greater species numbers and higher productivity than the adjacent deep ocean, and are biogeographically distinct.
Spalding and colleagues believe their classification scheme will enable marine gap analyses, an important approach for identifying areas crucial for conserving endangered species, as well as other types of studies on coastal and shelf biodiversity. The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund already have begun to use the Marine Ecoregions of the World system.
BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on “Organisms from Molecules to the Environment.” The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.