Ocean Sanctuaries

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Science  28 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5982, pp. 1077
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5982.1077-a

The existence of hot spots of high biodiversity has been well documented on land and also in a few marine habitats—for instance, on coral reefs and at deep-sea vents. However, the patterns of biodiversity in pelagic ocean habitats have been harder to discern. Seamounts—mountains that rise from the ocean floor but whose summits lie well below the surface—are known to aggregate migrating pelagic fish species, but a catalog of their intrinsic biodiversity is not yet available, largely because open-ocean data have been gathered at too coarse a scale. Using records from long-line fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean, Morato et al. modeled and mapped the occurrences of pelagic fish species in relation to seamounts. They observed a consistent pattern of higher diversity on and around seamounts, a pattern that can be detected as far away as 30 to 40 km from the summit of a seamount; in contrast, this pattern is not seen at similar distances from shorelines. An underlying cause of this increased diversity may be the greater vertical movement and mixing of nutrients in the neighborhood of seamounts. Another contributing factor may be the seamount magnetic signatures, which are used as navigational aids by migrant species. These findings suggest that seamounts would be good candidates for the establishment of offshore open-ocean conservation areas.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107, 10.1073/pnas0910290107 (2010).

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