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Biodiversity in the marine environment.

The marine environment has received much less attention than its terrestrial counterpart in the area of biodiversity. This is surprizing considering that marine evolution has a 2.7 billion year head start over terrestrial environments. This lack of attention probably results from the relatively limited accessibility of the ocean as well as its vast nature (i.e. covers approximately 70% of the earth's surface). Moreover, the previous train of thought depicted the marine environment as an area of low biodiversity and thus, research focused on land. Although an extensive amount of important biodiversity information has been addressed on land, the need for more research in the marine realm is great.

There exists a wealth of biodiversity in marine environments as a consequence of millions of years of evolutionary history. All except one of the presently described phyla (33; Norse, 1993) occur in the ocean while only about half that occur on land. Consequently, marine organisms display a much larger phyletic diversity than those on land (Ray, 1988). Furthermore, 15 phyla are exclusively marine! Ocean creatures contain a diversity of survival strategies not found on land and therefore, they may exhibit a higher functional diversity. Therefore, it is possible that the marine environment has not only a high phyletic diversity but also a great functional diversity. Further research is necessary to better the understanding of how diverse the marine environment actually is.


Norse, E.A. 1993. Global marine biological diversity: A strategy for building conservation into decision making. Island Press, Washington D.C.383 pp.

Ray, G.C. 1988. Ecological diversity in coastal zones and oceans. In E.O. Willson (ed), Biodiversity. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. Pp 36-50.

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