Ecological Discovery

Original estimates of biodiversity in the Gulf of Maine fall well short of actual species data

Biodiversity in the Gulf of Maine is proving to be higher than expected. Originally projected at approximately 2000 species, the species count being performed by the Gulf of Maine Census project (GoMA - a field component of the Census of Marine Life Program) has already reached over 3200 species. The Gulf of Maine Census' effort to determine all the species living in the Gulf is unprecedented, despite the fact that this region has historically been one of the most intensely studied ecosystems in the world.

Because the Gulf of Maine is also a heavily exploited ecosystem, researchers are finding that, even in its unfinished form, a register of the Gulf's species may prove to be a powerful tool for management of the region's marine resources. According to GoMA scientists, this compilation of species is the first step toward understanding the Gulf of Maine as a whole ecosystem. The next step is to understand how these species interact with each other and their surroundings.

The current species count identifies at least 652 kinds of fish, 184 species of birds, 733 different species of microscopic plants and algae, and 32 mammals that all call the Gulf of Maine home.

Red Sea Raven. Photo: Scott Leslie
Blue morph lumpfish with parasites. Photo: Scott Leslie

What: Biodiversity in the Gulf of Maine proves to be higher than originally projected
Who: Gulf of Maine Project (Gulf of Maine Census)
When: 2003 - Ongoing
Where: Gulf of Maine Ecosystem
Reference: N/A

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