English Encyclopedia

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The Indo-Pacific, sometimes known as the Indo-West Pacific or Indo-Pacific Asia, is a biogeographic region of Earth's seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia.

The Indo-Pacific, sometimes known as the Indo-West Pacific or Indo-Pacific Asia, is a biogeographic region of Earth's seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia. It does not include the temperate and polar regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans, nor the Tropical Eastern Pacific, along the Pacific coast of the Americas, which is also a distinct marine realm.

The term is especially useful in marine biologyichthyology, and similar fields, since many marine habitats are continuously connected from Madagascar to Japan and Oceania, and a number of species occur over that range, but are not found in the Atlantic Ocean.

The region has an exceptionally high species richness, with the world's highest species richness being found in at its heart in the Coral Triangle,[1][2] and a remarkable gradient of decreasing species richness radiating outward in all directions.[1] The region includes over 3,000 species of fish, compared with around 1,200 in the next richest marine region, the Western Atlantic, and around 500 species of reef building corals, compared with about 50 species in the Western Atlantic.[3]

The term first appeared in academic use in oceanography and geopolitics. Scholarship has shown that the "Indo-Pacific" concept circulated in Weimar Germany, and spread to interwar Japan. German political oceanographers envisioned an "Indo-Pacific" comprising anticolonial India and republican China, as German allies, against "Euro-America".[4] Since the late 2010s, the term "Indo-Pacific" has been increasingly used in geopolitical discourse. It also has a "symbiotic link" with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or "Quad", an informal grouping between Australia, Japan, India, and the United States. It has been argued that the concept may lead to a change in popular "mental maps" of how the world is understood in strategic terms.

The WWF and Nature Conservancy divide the Indo-Pacific into 3 realms (or subrealms), and each of these into 25 marine provinces and 77 ecoregions (Marine Ecoregions of the World; MEOW) based on data-driven expert opinion.[6] Other schemes for subdivision of the Indo-Pacific have included: 5 provinces, based on endemism in fishes;[7][8] 3 regions split into 10 provinces based on dissimilarity of fish assemblages,[9] 11 provinces based on range boundaries in corals,[10] 12 divisions split into 124 ecoregions based on biogeographic clustering from coral distributions[11] and finally 8 realms from distributions of 65,000 marine species.[12] All but the last of these schemes were tested against one another by an international consortium of marine scientists using genetic data from 56 Indo-Pacific species, with the reasoning that genetic data should reflect the evolutionary processes that structure the Indo-Pacific.[13] While there was no clear winning scheme, and all schemes were supported by data from at least one species, the genetic data in general favored schemes with few subdivisions, supporting the Indo-Pacific as relatively unstructured biogeographic realm - possibly the world's largest. Below are briefly described the 3 MEOW realms of the Indo-Pacific:

Central Indo-Pacific

The Central Indo-Pacific includes the numerous seas and straits connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans, including the seas surrounding the Indonesian archipelago (with the exception of Sumatra's northwest coast, which is part of the Western Indo-Pacific), the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea, the north coast of Australia, and the seas surrounding New Guinea, western and central MicronesiaNew Caledonia, the Solomon IslandsVanuatuFiji, and Tonga. The Central Indo-Pacific, due in part to its central location at the meeting of two oceans, has the greatest richness and diversity of marine organisms, specifically located within the Coral Triangle, which contains 76% of all known coral species in the world.[2]

Eastern Indo-Pacific

Main article: Eastern Indo-Pacific

The Eastern Indo-Pacific surrounds the mostly volcanic islands of the central Pacific Ocean, extending from the Marshall Islands through central and southeastern Polynesia to the west coast of Chile and Hawaii. The World Wide Fund for Nature believe the region ends at Chile's Easter Island and Isla Salas y Gómez, although it is sometimes extended even further to include Chile's Desventuradas Islands and Juan Fernández Islands.

Western Indo-Pacific

Main article: Western Indo-Pacific

The Western Indo-Pacific covers the western and central portion of the Indian Ocean, including Africa's east coast, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Andaman Sea, as well as the coastal waters surrounding MadagascarSeychelles, the Comoros, the Mascarene IslandsMaldives, and the Chagos Archipelago.

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