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Why taxonomy matters
A series of case studies highlighting Taxonomy's Value to Society

Implementing the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the CBD
Identification of marine hotspot allows for protection of biodiversity and spawning ground from fishing industry

Relevant Sector: Biodiversity Conservation, Fishing Industry

Geographic Location: Spirits Bay, New Zealand

Problem Statement: Many of the world’s marine biodiversity hotspots have been over fished. These hotspots are seldom recognised as such due to a lack of taxonomic information.

Methods: Surveys and more detailed programmes of sampling and identification were undertaken.

Outcomes and Impacts: Sampling revealed that an area of seafloor approximating 20 x 10 square km is the most diverse so far known for the New Zealand region, with high levels of local endemism. New hydroid, gorgonian, and barnacle taxa also occurred in the samples. The hitherto unsuspected species diversity of macrobenthos in this small area of seafloor off northern New Zealand resulted in the Ministry of Fisheries closing the area with the greatest number of species (in the 50-70 m depth zone) to trawling, Danish seining, and commercial scallop dredging, effective from 11 November 1999, to allow areas of affected habitat to regenerate.

Lessons: Only detailed, authoritative taxonomy allowed for the recognition of this area as New Zealand's marine-biodiversity hotspot, and thus for the protection of the area from fishing activities. Now, testable hypotheses based on geography, tectonics, hydrography, and the biology of the organisms themselves can be erected to explain this diversity and the area will be able to provide a spawning ground for the surrounding fishing industries.

Reference: 1. Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) International Committee: 2. Species 2000 Taxonomy Group: Species 2000 Asia-Oceania Working Group:

Contact Information: Dr Dennis P. Gordon FLS, Programme Leader: Aquatic Biodiversity & Biosecurity, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 14-901 Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand. Phone: 64 4 386 0388. Fax: 64 4 386 2153 E-mail: