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Marine Conservation Biology:
A New Science for the 21st Century

Two decades ago, scientists in many disciplines had valuable expertise relevant to conservation, but little cross-fertilization among disciplines occurred. Then, at Michael E. Soulé's landmark Conference on Conservation Biology in 1978, the new science of conservation biology was born, bringing focus to research on conserving dwindling populations, species and ecosystems. Scientists in many disciplines -- including systematics, ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, genetics, molecular biology, fishery biology, wildlife biology, forestry and ethnobotany -- made important contributions on how to conserve biological diversity. The momentum grew with the publication of the first book Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Perspective (1980) edited by Michael E. Soulé and Bruce A. Wilcox and the creation of the Society for Conservation Biology in 1986. Conservation biology has undergone remarkable growth, and its flagship journal, Conservation Biology, is read by thousands of scientists, including the Society for Conservation Biology's 5,000+ members.

This young science has made a major difference in conservation issues such as in the fights over the northern spotted owl and ancient forests. But its focus is largely terrestrial. A review by Irish and Norse (1996) in Conservation Biology showed papers on terrestrial species and ecosystems outnumber marine ones 13:1. Marine scientists need to strengthen conservation in the sea, just as terrestrial scientists have contributed to conservation on land by creating a new science to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries in the cause of maintaining biological diversity.

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