Biodiversity Day and Crucial Areas in the Oceans for Life

The logo for the 2020 International Biodiversity Day

Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity!

Created by the United Nations in 1993, Biological Diversity day was designated to celebrate the variety of life on Earth. This is also a day to remember that we depend on this biodiversity, and to learn more about the other species that inhabit our planet.

Along those lines, here’s a cool story by Tara Lohan of The Revelator about crucial areas in the oceans that need to be protected.

Critical Oceanic Conservation Areas

A breaching blue whale
Another whale picture, because creativity is hard. Image by Three-shots from Pixabay.

Lohan’s story is about a study and subsequent report that prioritize the most important locations in the high seas for conservation.

The term “high seas” refers to anywhere in the ocean that’s beyond 200 nautical miles from shore. These “areas beyond national jurisdiction” (ABNJ) aren’t owned by any nations, which makes conserving them difficult: the high seas comprise half of the earth’s surface, but only 1.2% of them are protected.

This won’t do. Like much of the oceans, the high seas are threatened by overfishing, pollution, shipping, mining, climate change, and more. At the same time, this report from the PEW Charitable Trusts states that the high seas, “represent about 95% of the occupied habitat on Earth” (p. 4).

To give the high seas a chance to recover and adapt to climate change, at least 30% of them must be protected.

Thus, a team of scientists from 13 universities and organizations pulled together as much data as they could to determine where it’d be best to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) in the high seas. They considered factors like:

  • Species richness,
  • The presence of unique features such as hydrothermal vents,
  • Climate-change projections,
  • Fishing pressure, and
  • The concentrations of endangered and threatened species.

After considering these factors, and several others, the scientists decided that these sites are ideal places for MPAs:

  1. The Salas y Goméz and Nazca Ridges in the southeastern Pacific Ocean
  2. The Costa Rica Dome in the eastern Pacific
  3. Lord Howe Rise and the South Tasman Sea, near Australia and New Zealand
  4. The Emperor Seamount Chain between Hawaii and Russia
  5. The Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean
  6. The Arabian Sea
  7. The Gulf of Guinea near west Africa
  8. The Walvis Ridge off the southwestern coast of Africa
  9. The Sargasso Sea and the Corner Rise Seamounts in the central and western Atlantic Ocean.

Protecting the above areas would be crucial first steps towards safeguarding the high seas. We depend on healthy oceans, and the time to act is now.

For more information, please read Lohan’s story in The Revelator. I also recommend viewing the PEW Trusts’ report.

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