Marine ecoregions are areas of general similarity in terms of physiographic, oceanographic and biological characteristics, which fall within the Exclusive Economic Zones of the North American countries. There are 24 marine ecoregions in North America.
In 2002, the CEC convened a trinational group of marine scientists to agree on a new, unified, ecological classification for oceanic and coastal regions. This resulted in the 24 marine ecoregions for North America classified by geographical, oceanographical, physiological and biological information, including distinct assemblages of species. These ecoregions help support biological connectivity, increased resilience, and protection of ecosystem integrity.
For each ecoregion, a brief description summarizes key features—in terms of its physical, oceanographic, and biological characteristics, as well as the impacts humans have had upon it. These descriptions also provide a quick glance at the state of knowledge by means of Fact Sheets. These Fact Sheets include geographical, oceanographical, physiological and biological information, such as the size of the region, its sea surface temperature, its primary productivity, and a description of the region by depth, its key habitats, species at risk and the principal human activities engaged in there.
The wealth of North America’s marine and coastal waters is unparalleled. These rich storehouses of biodiversity underpin our quality of life, our economies and much of our cultural identity. From the prolific areas of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to the exceptionally diverse Mesoamerican Coral Reef, Canada, Mexico, and the United States share a vast array of ecosystems—an interconnected continental web of life, dynamic and wondrous. Yet, when one looks at the continent as a whole, this bewildering assemblage of marine life, already threatened by land-based pollution, overfishing, and invasive species, among a wide array of stressors, is now facing new challenges from rapidly changing climatic conditions.
As much of the damage occurs hidden from our view, North Americans are seeking new means to protect our common natural endowment. Establishing an effective system for linking places in the ocean to ensure biological connectivity, increased resilience, and protection of ecosystem integrity, required a meaningful ecological framework.
In 2002, the CEC convened a trinational group of marine scientists to agree on a new, unified, ecological classification for oceanic and coastal regions.
The Marine Ecoregions, is the resulting approach, system of classification and map attempting to create consistent, standardized and understandable units out of the vastness of the continent’s ocean and coastal waters; a system that could be scalable, ecosystem-oriented, and linked to existing maps and classifications.
Using descriptive profiles, this book classifies the ocean and coastal regions of North America into 24 marine ecoregions, large masses of water differentiated by oceanographic features and geographically distinct assemblages of species that interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.
Each chapter briefly describes the key features of each ecoregion—in terms of its physical, oceanographic, and biological characteristics, as well as the impacts we humans have had upon it. Each chapter also enables the reader to have a quick glance at the state of knowledge by means of Fact Sheets to be found near the beginning of each section. These Fact Sheets summarize geographical, oceanographical, physiological and biological information, such as the size of the region, its sea surface temperature, its primary productivity, and provide a thumbnail description of the region by depth, its key habitats, species at risk and the principal human activities engaged in there. Sometimes categories may not be present, according to their importance for the region, or to the information available. For example, the category of endemic species is quite extensive within the well-studied Gulf of California ecoregion, but omitted for the Arctic Basin, where information on the subject is more sparse. Each profile also contains
information on how the region was delineated.
There are also important sections at the back of the book that contain acronyms and abbreviations; a glossary of common conservation and scientific terms used throughout the book; a list of important species, including endemic and invasive species, highlighted in the text, given by common name (English, French and Spanish) and scientific name; a list of related websites; and a reference list. Finally, and for the sake of completeness, the book also contains short descriptions of the distinct ecoregions of the US Pacific Island Territories.
This unprecedented effort to promote a better understanding of our oceans has been possible thanks to the leadership and generous contributions of Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (Conanp), Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (Conabio), and Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE) in Mexico; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, and Parks Canada.