LIFE IN THE WORLD'S OCEANS: DIVERSITY, DISTRIBUTION, AND ABUNDANCE - Edited by A. D. McIntyre
Article first published online: 18 JAN 2013
© 2013 The Author. Journal of Fish Biology © 2013 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles
Journal of Fish Biology
Volume 82, Issue 1, pages 364–365, January 2013
How to Cite
EVERSON, I. (2013), LIFE IN THE WORLD'S OCEANS: DIVERSITY, DISTRIBUTION, AND ABUNDANCE - Edited by A. D. McIntyre. Journal of Fish Biology, 82: 364–365. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12000
- Issue published online: 18 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 18 JAN 2013
LIFE IN THE WORLD'S OCEANS: DIVERSITY, DISTRIBUTION, AND ABUNDANCE . Edited By A. D. McIntyre . 384 pp . Published by Wiley-Blackwell , Oxford, U.K. , 2010 . Price £130.00 . ISBN: 978-1-4051-9297-2 .
The gargantuan scope of this book is set out in stark terms in just over a page of two columns of bullet points ending with the statement ‘This book reports the known, unknown, and unknowable of the first Census of Marine Life. This book is about the richness of 3.5 billion years.’ Three hundred and fifty pages later the 137 contributors have summarised an enormous programme, and then through 17 chapters encompassing waters shallow to deep, habitats pelagic to benthic and tropical to polar, outlined the progress that had been made in the study of biodiversity. Initially the book deals with ‘Oceans Past' to set the scene with not only what was known but how and why it was known, or at least thought to be understood. ‘Oceans Present' is divided into three major parts on ‘Geographic Realms', ‘Global Distributions' and ‘Animal Movements', followed by Part V on ‘Oceans Future’ and VI on ‘Using the data’.
Space does not permit an extensive examination of each chapter or section simply because the topics, even though they remain within the scope of the book, are so diverse. As an example, taking Chapter 11, a region I thought I knew, fourteen pages of text and colourful diagrams supported by 123 references showed me how much I didn't know. Then there are the habitats about which I'd read, but not in depth, such as in Chapters 8 and 9, the deep and abyssal regions; habitats that have inspired both fiction writers and scientists for over a century. Two figures stand out, the limited area that it was possible to cover through field sampling within the diverse studies of the project (Fig 8.1). And then Fig 8.2 showing the numbers of species reported by ten degree square (a spatial scale that would encompass the British Isles); many with zero species records and a majority with 5 or fewer. In this context low numbers do not represent barren regions but rather a lack of sampling effort as indicated later in Figures 17.5 and 17.6.
So is this book showing the breadth and depth of knowledge or merely scraping the surface? These questions are addressed in the final two chapters. The enormous amount of information and its synthesis is covered in Chapter 16 which, as well as highlighting the incompleteness of the data on biodiversity already noted above, looks at ecosystem change. Figure 16.6, a revealing temporal examination, demonstrates what has happened over the past century relative to the past millennium. Irrespective of whether the trends are natural or man induced, they provide a stark warning, gently expressed within the chapter. The options are clearly stated in Box 16.2, which highlights the two most critical variables, rates of ocean warming and of exploitation. The way monitoring can be developed to provide evidence in support of measuring change is covered in the final chapter (Chapter 17), Data Integration, which shows the interrelationships of the diverse series of national and international programmes that have gone into this World Census and how they have coalesced into the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). This web-based tool already provides information relevant to management of the World's Oceans. But is the message getting through?
I started reading this book whilst the 2012 Rio Summit was in session and my mind went back to its forerunner in 1992. What progress is there to report? In terms of science, a great deal, witness this volume, but in terms of policy, virtually nothing. Surely, I mused, the superannuated Executive Class delegates to Rio 2012 would have been properly briefed by their scientists, clearly, as evidenced by this book, not adequately.
So who should read this book? Even if the language is beyond the delegates to Rio the pictures will tell them a striking story. Intelligent people with concerns over human impacts on the planet will find the text readable and the book will help them develop their views on what has been done and what is needed. Researchers wanting to gain entry to the subject will find a useful summary of major marine habitats supported by many references from which to develop in-depth knowledge. Priced at £130.00 it is expensive for a book that, were it on the shelf, would save a great deal of time searching ‘www’ for all the building blocks on which it is based.
I cannot close without mentioning Alasdair McIntyre who passed away as the book was approaching completion. I only met him a few times from which I knew him as an amiable, thoughtful and forceful supporter of marine biological research. I am confident he would be extremely proud of this book.
INIGO EVERSON 1