Discovering marine biodiversity in the 21st century.

Alex D Rogers, Ward Appeltans, Jorge Assis, Lisa T Ballance, Philippe Cury, Carlos M. Duarte, Fabio Favoretto, Lisa A Hynes, Joy A Kumagai, Catherine E Lovelock, Patricia Miloslavich, Aidin Niamir, David Obura, Bethan C O'Leary, Eva Ramirez-Llodra, Gabriel Reygondeau, Callum Roberts, Yvonne Sadovy, Oliver Steeds, Tracey SuttonDerek P Tittensor, Enriqueta Velarde, Lucy Woodall, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We review the current knowledge of the biodiversity of the ocean as well as the levels of decline and threat for species and habitats. The lack of understanding of the distribution of life in the ocean is identified as a significant barrier to restoring its biodiversity and health. We explore why the science of taxonomy has failed to deliver knowledge of what species are present in the ocean, how they are distributed and how they are responding to global and regional to local anthropogenic pressures. This failure prevents nations from meeting their international commitments to conserve marine biodiversity with the results that investment in taxonomy has declined in many countries. We explore a range of new technologies and approaches for discovery of marine species and their detection and monitoring. These include: imaging methods, molecular approaches, active and passive acoustics, the use of interconnected databases and citizen science. Whilst no one method is suitable for discovering or detecting all groups of organisms many are complementary and have been combined to give a more complete picture of biodiversity in marine ecosystems. We conclude that integrated approaches represent the best way forwards for accelerating species discovery, description and biodiversity assessment. Examples of integrated taxonomic approaches are identified from terrestrial ecosystems. Such integrated taxonomic approaches require the adoption of cybertaxonomy approaches and will be boosted by new autonomous sampling platforms and development of machine-speed exchange of digital information between databases.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-115
Number of pages93
JournalAdvances in Marine Biology
StatePublished - Nov 23 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-11-30
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge support for this paper from the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (, The Nekton Foundation ( and The Nippon Foundation ( J. Assis acknowledges funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) of Portugal via UIDB/04326/2020, UIDP/04326/2020, LA/P/0101/2020, PTDC/BIA-CBI/6515/2020 and the Scientific Employment Stimulus 2022/00861/CEECIND. A.D. Rogers and E. Ramirez-Llodra thank Rev Ocean for support throughout this project. D.P. Tittensor acknowledges support from The Jarislowsky Foundation and NSERC. E. Velarde would like to acknowledge funding from the joint fund of Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, Lindblad Expeditions, National Geographic and the Packard Foundation. L. Woodall acknowledges support from the University of Oxford during this project.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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