Propelled by the need for understanding changes in marine biodiversity resulting from human activities, this proposed research program calls for ecological and oceanographic research spanning a broad range of spatial scales, from local to much larger regional, and over appropriately long time scales for capturing the dynamics of the system under study (Box 15). The research agenda proposes a fundamental change in the approach by which biodiversity is measured and studied in the ocean by emphasizing integrated regional-scale research strategies within an environmentally relevant and socially responsible framework. This is now possible because of recent technological and conceptual advances within the ecological, molecular, and oceanographic sciences. A major goal of this research is to improve predictions of the effects of the human population on the diversity of life in the sea, in order to improve conservation and management plans.
A well-defined set of biodiversity research questions is proposed for study in several different types of regional-scale marine ecosystems. These studies will permit meaningful comparisons across different habitats of the causes and consequences of changes in biodiversity due to human activities. This agenda requires significant advances in taxonomic expertise for identifying marine organisms and documenting their distributions, in knowledge of local and regional natural patterns of biodiversity, and in understanding of the processes that create and maintain these patterns in space and time. Thus, this program could provide long-awaited, much-needed, and exciting opportunities to develop the interface between taxonomy and ecology and between the ecological and oceanographic sciences.
The ultimate benefit to science and society of this research program (Box 16) would be an enhanced ability for long-term sustained use of the oceans and marine organisms for food, mineral resources, biomedical products, recreation, and other aesthetic and economic gains, while conserving and preserving biodiversity and ecosystem function of life in the sea.
Box 15: This national marine biodiversity research initiative could be many things to many people.
THE MARINE BIODIVERSITY INITIATIVE: WHAT IT WOULD BE
This national marine biodiversity research initiative could do many things for many people.
THE MARINE BIODIVERSITY INITIATIVE: WHAT IT WOULD DO