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Marine biodiversity in the Caribbean: regional estimates and distribution patterns.

Miloslavich P, Díaz JM, Klein E, Alvarado JJ, Díaz C, Gobin J, Escobar-Briones E, Cruz-Motta JJ, Weil E, Cortés J, Bastidas AC, Robertson R, Zapata F, Martín A, Castillo J, Kazandjian A, Ortiz M - PLoS ONE (2010)

Bottom Line: Additionally, we found that the currently accepted classification of marine ecoregions of the Caribbean did not apply for the benthic distributions of five relatively well known taxonomic groups.Coastal species richness tends to concentrate along the Antillean arc (Cuba to the southernmost Antilles) and the northern coast of South America (Venezuela-Colombia), while no pattern can be observed in the deep sea with the available data.Several factors make it impossible to determine the extent to which these distribution patterns accurately reflect the true situation for marine biodiversity in general: (1) highly localized concentrations of collecting effort and a lack of collecting in many areas and ecosystems, (2) high variability among collecting methods, (3) limited taxonomic expertise for many groups, and (4) differing levels of activity in the study of different taxa.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela. pmilos@usb.ve

ABSTRACT
This paper provides an analysis of the distribution patterns of marine biodiversity and summarizes the major activities of the Census of Marine Life program in the Caribbean region. The coastal Caribbean region is a large marine ecosystem (LME) characterized by coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, but including other environments, such as sandy beaches and rocky shores. These tropical ecosystems incorporate a high diversity of associated flora and fauna, and the nations that border the Caribbean collectively encompass a major global marine biodiversity hot spot. We analyze the state of knowledge of marine biodiversity based on the geographic distribution of georeferenced species records and regional taxonomic lists. A total of 12,046 marine species are reported in this paper for the Caribbean region. These include representatives from 31 animal phyla, two plant phyla, one group of Chromista, and three groups of Protoctista. Sampling effort has been greatest in shallow, nearshore waters, where there is relatively good coverage of species records; offshore and deep environments have been less studied. Additionally, we found that the currently accepted classification of marine ecoregions of the Caribbean did not apply for the benthic distributions of five relatively well known taxonomic groups. Coastal species richness tends to concentrate along the Antillean arc (Cuba to the southernmost Antilles) and the northern coast of South America (Venezuela-Colombia), while no pattern can be observed in the deep sea with the available data. Several factors make it impossible to determine the extent to which these distribution patterns accurately reflect the true situation for marine biodiversity in general: (1) highly localized concentrations of collecting effort and a lack of collecting in many areas and ecosystems, (2) high variability among collecting methods, (3) limited taxonomic expertise for many groups, and (4) differing levels of activity in the study of different taxa.

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Contributions from Caribbean ecoregions to regional species diversity (gamma diversity) for five taxa.For each taxonomic group, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity, from higher to lower. SCar: Southern Caribbean, SWCar: Southwestern Caribbean, ECar: Eastern Caribbean, GAnt: Greater Antilles, WCar: Western Caribbean.
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pone-0011916-g006: Contributions from Caribbean ecoregions to regional species diversity (gamma diversity) for five taxa.For each taxonomic group, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity, from higher to lower. SCar: Southern Caribbean, SWCar: Southwestern Caribbean, ECar: Eastern Caribbean, GAnt: Greater Antilles, WCar: Western Caribbean.

Mentions: While counts of species numbers may reasonably reflect the biological richness of a given area, they do not reflect its uniqueness. The latter is an equally significant measure of an area's importance in a wider context. A useful measure of an area's uniqueness is the number of endemic species it contains or of species that are likely to occur only in this area within the region but are more or less widely distributed in other regions outside the evaluated region. To measure uniqueness, the relative contribution of local (by country or subregion) diversity (alpha diversity) to the regional diversity (gamma diversity) was assessed. Figure 6 presents for five taxa: sponges (Figure 6a), hard corals (Figure 6b), mollusks (Figure 6c), amphipods (Figure 6d), echinoderms (Figure 6e), and for all taxa combined (Figure 6f) the relative contribution of species diversity from the five Caribbean ecoregions to the whole species diversity in the Caribbean region (gamma diversity). For each taxonomic group in the figure, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity. For all of the five groups (Figure 6a–6e), the regions that had the higher alpha biodiversity were also those that contributed more to the regional (gamma) diversity, however, the contribution by ecoregion was different depending on the taxonomic group. The Greater Antilles is the ecoregion that contributes more to the region's diversity when all species from the five taxonomic groups are combined, a trend that was also observed for sponges and mollusks. For corals and for amphipods, the Southern Caribbean was the most contributing ecoregion, while for echinoderms, it was the Southwestern Caribbean. The ecoregion with the lowest contribution to the region's gamma diversity was the Eastern Caribbean. These ecoregional trends, however, may hide important contributions from smaller areas. When smaller areas within ecoregions were studied in detail, some countries also showed particular endemisms (Figure 7). In general, countries with a higher number of species also contribute more to the regional diversity (e.g., Cuba for sponges, Venezuela for amphipods, Mexico and Colombia for echinoderms). Nevertheless, there are some exceptions. In Barbados, for example, the number of sponge species (alpha diversity) is not very high, and as a country, it ranks in the bottom 30% of Caribbean countries for this group. However, its species seem to contribute significantly to the regional, gamma diversity, even more than Panama and Venezuela, which rank among the top 30% of countries with high diversity.


Marine biodiversity in the Caribbean: regional estimates and distribution patterns.

Miloslavich P, Díaz JM, Klein E, Alvarado JJ, Díaz C, Gobin J, Escobar-Briones E, Cruz-Motta JJ, Weil E, Cortés J, Bastidas AC, Robertson R, Zapata F, Martín A, Castillo J, Kazandjian A, Ortiz M - PLoS ONE (2010)

Contributions from Caribbean ecoregions to regional species diversity (gamma diversity) for five taxa.For each taxonomic group, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity, from higher to lower. SCar: Southern Caribbean, SWCar: Southwestern Caribbean, ECar: Eastern Caribbean, GAnt: Greater Antilles, WCar: Western Caribbean.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2914069&req=5

pone-0011916-g006: Contributions from Caribbean ecoregions to regional species diversity (gamma diversity) for five taxa.For each taxonomic group, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity, from higher to lower. SCar: Southern Caribbean, SWCar: Southwestern Caribbean, ECar: Eastern Caribbean, GAnt: Greater Antilles, WCar: Western Caribbean.
Mentions: While counts of species numbers may reasonably reflect the biological richness of a given area, they do not reflect its uniqueness. The latter is an equally significant measure of an area's importance in a wider context. A useful measure of an area's uniqueness is the number of endemic species it contains or of species that are likely to occur only in this area within the region but are more or less widely distributed in other regions outside the evaluated region. To measure uniqueness, the relative contribution of local (by country or subregion) diversity (alpha diversity) to the regional diversity (gamma diversity) was assessed. Figure 6 presents for five taxa: sponges (Figure 6a), hard corals (Figure 6b), mollusks (Figure 6c), amphipods (Figure 6d), echinoderms (Figure 6e), and for all taxa combined (Figure 6f) the relative contribution of species diversity from the five Caribbean ecoregions to the whole species diversity in the Caribbean region (gamma diversity). For each taxonomic group in the figure, the ecoregions are ordered by alpha diversity. For all of the five groups (Figure 6a–6e), the regions that had the higher alpha biodiversity were also those that contributed more to the regional (gamma) diversity, however, the contribution by ecoregion was different depending on the taxonomic group. The Greater Antilles is the ecoregion that contributes more to the region's diversity when all species from the five taxonomic groups are combined, a trend that was also observed for sponges and mollusks. For corals and for amphipods, the Southern Caribbean was the most contributing ecoregion, while for echinoderms, it was the Southwestern Caribbean. The ecoregion with the lowest contribution to the region's gamma diversity was the Eastern Caribbean. These ecoregional trends, however, may hide important contributions from smaller areas. When smaller areas within ecoregions were studied in detail, some countries also showed particular endemisms (Figure 7). In general, countries with a higher number of species also contribute more to the regional diversity (e.g., Cuba for sponges, Venezuela for amphipods, Mexico and Colombia for echinoderms). Nevertheless, there are some exceptions. In Barbados, for example, the number of sponge species (alpha diversity) is not very high, and as a country, it ranks in the bottom 30% of Caribbean countries for this group. However, its species seem to contribute significantly to the regional, gamma diversity, even more than Panama and Venezuela, which rank among the top 30% of countries with high diversity.

Bottom Line: Additionally, we found that the currently accepted classification of marine ecoregions of the Caribbean did not apply for the benthic distributions of five relatively well known taxonomic groups.Coastal species richness tends to concentrate along the Antillean arc (Cuba to the southernmost Antilles) and the northern coast of South America (Venezuela-Colombia), while no pattern can be observed in the deep sea with the available data.Several factors make it impossible to determine the extent to which these distribution patterns accurately reflect the true situation for marine biodiversity in general: (1) highly localized concentrations of collecting effort and a lack of collecting in many areas and ecosystems, (2) high variability among collecting methods, (3) limited taxonomic expertise for many groups, and (4) differing levels of activity in the study of different taxa.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela. pmilos@usb.ve

ABSTRACT
This paper provides an analysis of the distribution patterns of marine biodiversity and summarizes the major activities of the Census of Marine Life program in the Caribbean region. The coastal Caribbean region is a large marine ecosystem (LME) characterized by coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses, but including other environments, such as sandy beaches and rocky shores. These tropical ecosystems incorporate a high diversity of associated flora and fauna, and the nations that border the Caribbean collectively encompass a major global marine biodiversity hot spot. We analyze the state of knowledge of marine biodiversity based on the geographic distribution of georeferenced species records and regional taxonomic lists. A total of 12,046 marine species are reported in this paper for the Caribbean region. These include representatives from 31 animal phyla, two plant phyla, one group of Chromista, and three groups of Protoctista. Sampling effort has been greatest in shallow, nearshore waters, where there is relatively good coverage of species records; offshore and deep environments have been less studied. Additionally, we found that the currently accepted classification of marine ecoregions of the Caribbean did not apply for the benthic distributions of five relatively well known taxonomic groups. Coastal species richness tends to concentrate along the Antillean arc (Cuba to the southernmost Antilles) and the northern coast of South America (Venezuela-Colombia), while no pattern can be observed in the deep sea with the available data. Several factors make it impossible to determine the extent to which these distribution patterns accurately reflect the true situation for marine biodiversity in general: (1) highly localized concentrations of collecting effort and a lack of collecting in many areas and ecosystems, (2) high variability among collecting methods, (3) limited taxonomic expertise for many groups, and (4) differing levels of activity in the study of different taxa.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus