Surely, March 2023 will be remembered with the historic agreement of UN member states to protect marine biodiversity in the world’s oceans.
The so-called High Seas Treaty is a legal framework for the protection of marine biodiversity and responsible and equitable use of resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBJN). Its draft, published on the 5th of March 2023, is the outcome of two decades of negotiations, and is part of the international effort to protect a third of the world’s biodiversity by 2030.
An unwavering dedication to the protection and conservation of biodiversity will be required to see the firm landing of this hopeful step.
On this occasion, we look back at some impactful studies published in our journals that have made waves, hopefully in the right direction towards impactful conservation measures and actions.
Following President Barack Obama’s expansion of the largest permanent Marine Protected Area on Earth (Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument) in 2016, a new species of coral-reef fish was named in his honour. The fish is the only known coral-reef species to be endemic to the Monument, and, despite its small size, it carries wide-reaching cultural and political significance as a reminder of how politics go hand in hand with science.
Other studies from our flagship zoology journal ZooKeys have focused on the benthic megafauna and abyssal fauna of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean.
The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, managed by the International Seabed Authority, has been targeted by deep-sea mining interests. In the context of heightened concern over potential biodiversity loss, scientific research is crucial for informing policy-makers and the general public about the risks and outcomes of such initiatives.
The rich biodiversity of the deep sea has also been documented in big-scale taxonomic inventories and checklists in the Biodiversity Data Journal.
Such examples are the publication of 48 new echinoderm records from the CCZ made during a single 25-day cruise, marking a ~25% increase of the echinoderm species records previously available in databases. Other notable contributions are the first image atlas of annelid, arthropod, bryozoan, chordate, ctenophore and mollusc morphospecies and the first image atlas of echinoderm megafauna morphospecies inhabiting the UK-1 exploration contract area and the eastern CCZ.
Going forward, the expansion of Marine Protected Areas should also ensure the implementation of policies for the methods of resource extraction and their equitable sharing and use among the world’s nations.
Over the next few years, we hope to see an ever increasing interest in biodiversity conservation - from the general public, stakeholders and policy makers, and, of course, research institutions. We need to love what we protect in order to be able to protect it.