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Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2
   

Reef Relief

 
     


So how many species do you think inhabit the Earth’s coral reefs? Nancy Knowlton, a leading coral reef ecologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says a “best guess” puts the number at somewhere between one million and nine million. And therein lies the problem, we can only guess. The reefs, which have been called the “rainforests of the sea,” are much less explored than their terrestrial counterparts. And yet they are among the Earth’s most threatened and fragile environments.

To address our gaps in knowledge and investigate various threats to reef health, Knowlton and colleagues have launched an unprecedented global census called CReefs. The new project is one of 17 programs in the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers in more than 70 nations engaged in a 10-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans.

In addition to traditional taxonomy, CReefs scientists will use new DNA technologies to speed up their ability to detect new species in samples of reef rock, sediments and water. The results will not only help researchers evaluate species numbers, but also will provide key information for reef management.

Contributors to Making Waves: Mario Aguilera, '89, Jessica Demian, Marnette Federis, '06, Rex Graham, Raymond Hardie and Kim McDonald.

RELATED LINKS

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
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Center for Marine Diversity & Conservation
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CReefs News Release
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"So how many species do you think inhabit the Earth’s coral reefs?"