told by Emperor Josef II that his sonata contained too many notes. He replied that it contained “exactly the necessary number.”


The ultimate challenge lies in detecting the loss of biodiversity in coastal and marine systems. The last fallen mahogany would lie perceptibly on the landscape, and the last black rhino would be obvious in its loneliness, but a marine species may disappear beneath the waves unobserved and the sea would seem to roll on the same as always. Extinction rates in the coastal zone and oceans are not known. Very few species seem to have gone. Some relicts, such as Steller’s sea cow, are gone, as are some especially vulnerable species, such as the Labrador duck and the great auk. I wonder how much effort would be spent on ensuring their survival today. Would we dare pull the plug as some would do for the California condor so that our attention and limited resources could be turned toward other equally pressing matters? Or would we use these species, like the panda is being used, to raise funds for conservation efforts?

Though the bulk of humanity lives in coastal zones, the wet portion of our planet still seems distantly remote—out of sight and out of mind to most people.

FIGURE 4–7 Temperate Atlantic Ocean school of amberjack (Seriola dumerili). Photo by M.A. deCamp.

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