Current oversights in marine biogeography

Steve Gaines, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara

Wednesday, November 29, 2000
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species on the planet. Because of the enormous spatial scales involved, tests of biogeographic hypotheses have proven difficult. We cannot do experiments (at least not replicated ones), and we typically have limited data relevant to the questions. As a result, we typically extrapolate from our understanding of the processes setting local distributions to larger biogeographic scales. These extrapolations are problematic if there are factors operating at large scales that play little role at local scales.

In this talk, I will explore these issues with respect to several important biogeographic issues: the causes of species range boundaries, latitudinal patterns of species diversity, and the response of biogeographic distributions to climatic shifts. One common thread to the findings is that ocean currents and their effects on the dispersal of young may play a far more important and complicated role than is commonly assumed. In addition, the important role of current-driven dispersal may generate important contrasts between terrestrial and marine biogeographic patterns.

Next: Sea otter research and conservation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium