"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known" Carl Sagan
sábado, 8 de octubre de 2011
Biodiversity - Every species on Earth could be discovered within 50 years
EVERY species yet to be discovered on Earth could be identified by the end of the century, one of the world's leading marine biologists has claimed.
Raggis Bird of Paradise - found in Papua New Guinea [Credit: The Scotsman]
Professor Mark Costello, the New Zealand academic who founded the World Register of Marine Species, told delegates at an international marine conference in Aberdeen that the latest research suggested there are far fewer species on Earth - just two million - than widely believed.
And it is possible for them all to be discovered this century provided their identification is made a top priority for world science.
Prof Costello, of the University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory, led the recent Census of Marine Life - a "roll call" of the species to be found in 25 key ocean regions across the globe. The study showed that each ocean zone contained an estimated 33,000 known forms of life.
He told delegates at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity that research he had conducted with colleagues at Trinity College, Dublin, concluded that only between 24 and 31 per cent of marine species have still to be discovered in the world's oceans, while the number of terrestrial species still to be identified was between 21 and 29 per cent.
There had, he said, been speculation about the number of species on Earth for hundreds of years, and estimates have varied by tens of millions. One recent study suggested there are more than eight million species on the planet.
But Prof Costello said of the Irish and New Zealand study: "It was the most comprehensive and statistically rigorous approach to date that predicts global species richness."
The research concluded that there are likely to be only 1.8 to two million species in total on land and in the sea.
The researchers concluded that around 16 per cent - or 300,000 - of the world's species are marine. And they predicted that 24 to 31 per cent more marine species, and 21 to 29 per cent more terrestrial species, remain to be discovered.
Prof Costello added: "People may not be aware that around 18,000 species are being described each year, including 2,000 marine species. With only a modest increase in the rate of discovery, around one million new species can be discovered and described in the next 50 years."