NSU researcher helps international team create plan to protect US waters’ biodiversity

Marine biodiversity in crisis not just in Florida, but worldwide.

Tracey Sutton, a Nova Southeastern professor and director of the DEEPEND Research Consortium, was among 28 scientists, economists and marine policy experts worldwide who was invited to assess the U.S. strategy for marine biodiversity protection.

Sutton participated in a series of dialogues and workshops over the last three years, with the results recently published as a framework for biodiversity protection in U.S. waters.

Climate change, overfishing, habitat destruction and other extractive industries are causing species losses at an alarming rate.

Protecting marine life requires a network of protected areas that are ecologically representative, foster connectivity between habitats and consider the dynamic nature of coastal and marine habitats, scientists say.

Such ecosystems have been the subject of an internationally recognized program led by NSU researchers at Halmos College of Arts and Sciences and Guy Harvey Oceanographic Research Center.

A fundamental challenge to marine biodiversity protection is the poor understanding of the diversity and distribution of marine life, making it more difficult to designate protective measures and assess their success, Sutton said.

“The marine environment presents unique challenges: the world ocean is vast, much of it is distant from human populations, its life is often hidden from view and sampling presents formidable logistical difficulties,” Sutton said.

“As a result, observations of ocean life are a fraction of those on land and are especially sparse in the water column and deep sea.

“It’s important to know that this research continues. There is so much more to learn and understand about the world’s oceans, and we’re committed to the research and the work, as we must do all we can to help keep our oceans healthy and vibrant for future generations.”