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Welcome to the lab of Boris Worm at the Department of Biology, Dalhousie University

The Worm Lab includes students and postdoctoral fellows engaged in the study of marine biodiversity, its causes, consequences of change, and conservation.

There are four major questions that guide our research:
  • How is marine biodiversity distributed across the globe?
  • How is marine biodiversity changing over time?
  • What are the consequences of biodiversity change?
  • What management solutions really work in preventing biodiversity loss?
  • Below, some recent papers illustrate how we are trying to better answer these questions:

    Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks
    2013
    A new analysis of global shark fisheries reveals that at least 100 million sharks a year are killed. This mortality translates into one of 15 sharks in the world that dies from fishing every year, a rate of exploitation that is not sustainable given the life history of the species.

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    2013 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Science
    2013
    Heike Lotze & Boris Worm received this year’s Peter Benchley Award for Excellence in Science. Through their extensive body of work they have significantly increased the world’s knowledge about the changing abundance and diversity of the planet’s fish and marine wildlife populations and the impact of nutrient pollution and other human activities. The awards ceremony will take place on May 15, 2013 at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.

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    Recovery potential and conservation options for elasmobranchs
    2012
    In response to declining elasmobranch populations, combined with the realization of their importance to the environment and local economies, a number of management plans have been initiated to slow and (ideally) reverse these negative trends. This paper reviews our current understanding of elasmobranch population recoveries and shows that 1) populations can recover - the earlier the better; 2) incidental fishing pressure can stall or prohibit recovery; and 3) management and conservation strategies must be multi-faceted in order to be successful.

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    8.7 million species on Earth and in the oceans
    2011
    A new study by Dalhousie researchers used an innovative analytical technique to provide a new estimate of the total number of species on Earth. The estimate of 8.7 million species (plus or minus 1.3 million species) is the most precise calculation of this number to date. The paper, published in PLoS Biology, reveals that 6.5 million species are found on land and 2.2 million live in the oceans. And incredibly, the study predicts that 86% of all species on land and 91% of all species in the oceans have yet to be discovered and described.

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    Range contraction in large pelagic predators
    2011
    Large reductions in the abundance of exploited land predators have led to significant range contractions for those species. This paper shows similar responses in highly mobile tuna and billfish. It implies ecological extirpation of heavily exploited species across parts of their range.

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    Sharks of the Atlantic Research and Conservation Coalition
    2011
    Sharks of the Atlantic Research and Conservation Coalition (ShARCC) aims to be a coalition of academia, industry, governmental, and non-governmental organizations. The goal of ShARCC is to promote elasmobranch (sharks, skates and rays) conservation in Atlantic Canada through research, outreach, changes on the water and improved management, ultimately leading to the protection and recovery of these species.

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    Decline of marine phytoplankton over past century
    2010
    An unprecedented collection of historical and recent oceanographic data was used to document phytoplankton declines of approximately 1% of the global average per year over the past century. Long-term phytoplankton declines were correlated with rising sea surface temperatures.

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    Global patterns and predictors of marine biodiversity
    2010
    FMAP researchers examined global patterns and predictors of species richness across 13 major species groups ranging from zooplankton to marine mammals and identified water temperature as the main environmental predictor of biodiversity patterns in the ocean.

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    Patterns and ecosystem consequences of shark declines in the ocean
    2010
    A study synthesizing the nature and scale of the ecological consequences of shark declines in the global ocean uncovered overall patterns and presents new evidence for the importance of shark populations to the rest of the marine world.

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    Rebuilding Global Fisheries
    2009
    A recent study examined current trends in fish abundance and exploitation rates globally and identified successful management solutions for rebuilding depleted fish stocks. Steps taken to curb overfishing are beginning to succeed, yet 63% of assessed fish stocks worldwide still require rebuilding.

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    Management Effectiveness of the World's Marine Fisheries
    2009
    A new study provides the first global evaluation of how management practices influence fisheries' sustainability. The study assessed the effectiveness of the world's fisheries management regimes using evaluations by nearly 1,200 fisheries experts and analyzing these in combination with data on the sustainability of fisheries catches.

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