Marine Biodiversity, Biogeography, Deep-Sea Gradients, and Conservation
The oceans appear ideal for biodiversity — they have unlimited water, a large area, are well connected, have less extreme temperatures than on land, and contain more phyla and classes than land and fresh waters. Yet only 16% of all named species on Earth are marine. Species richness decreases with depth in the ocean, reflecting wider geographic ranges of deep sea than coastal species. Here, we assess how many marine species are named and estimated to exist, paying particular regard to whether discoveries of deep-sea organisms, microbes and parasites will change the proportion of terrestrial to marine species. We then review what factors have led to species diversification, and how this knowledge informs conservation priorities. The implications of this understanding for marine conservation are that the species most vulnerable to extinction will be large and endemic. Unfortunately, these species are also the most threatened by human impacts. Such threats now extend globally, and thus the only refuges for these species will be large, permanent, fully protected marine reserves.