Historically, scientists have spent a lot of time classifying and sorting things. Classifying group members with similar characteristics allows us to create models to explore the organizing forces that generate pattern. If a given model does sort un-like items, it gives inferential support to the hypotheses that generated that model. In terrestrial ecology for example, the concept of “the Biome” not only groups similar communities, but also successfully discriminates unlike communities, highlighting the organizing processes in terrestrial systems. A well-known case is the Whittaker diagram, which separates terrestrial biomes by precipitation and temperature; in marine systems no similar scheme for classification has been successful-such as organizing communities by nutrient and light abundance. Here, we present a classification scheme that effectively sorts ocean biomes, and that also differentiates ecosystems within those biomes. This classification sorts biomes by primary production and substrate mobility. The success of this classification supports the hypothesis that these axes are important structuring forces within marine communities. While primary production is widely measured and reported, the effectiveness of the more rarely reported substrate mobility as an ecologically organizing force argues for more attention and monitoring of substrate characteristics.
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