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Is Marine Biodiversity at Less Risk? Evidence and Implications

Michael L. McKinney
Diversity and Distributions
Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 3-8
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2999807
Page Count: 6
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Is Marine Biodiversity at Less Risk? Evidence and Implications
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Abstract

It has long been suggested that marine species are generally less prone to extinction than terrestrial species. Emerging evidence for this is supported by both modern and fossil extinction rate data. These show that marine taxa tend to have consistently lower extinction rates during geologic time as well as the current extinction crisis. Because of the practical difficulties of accurately measuring fossil and modern extinction rates, this evidence is only tentative. However, this does agree with other lines of emerging evidence such as broader geographic ranges for marine species. While the apparent lower risk could be used to justify the relative neglect of marine biodiversity by policy-makers, this cannot continue indefinitely. The marine realm is suffering many local extinctions, as with coral reefs, which will eventually accumulate to cause species extinctions. Furthermore, species extinctions in the marine realm may ultimately result in more fundamental biodiversity loss because there are more phyla, and other higher taxa, which are represented by fewer species and have lower rates of evolution. Correcting this problem will require greater attention to the relatively neglected theory, design and establishment of marine reserves while recognizing that marine extinction dynamics are often distinct from terrestrial dynamics. Examples include a greater relative role for dispersal in maintaining local populations and the greater threat of exotic species for marine biodiversity.

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