free debate

October 6, 2010

The Census of Marine Life

Around 70% of Earth's surface is covered in water. On average, this water -the ocean- is about 14,000 ft (2.65 miles, 4.267 km) deep.(source) The ocean is also one of the least well-explored places on our planet. It's practically an alien world. Recently, numerous scientists, including marine biologists, oceanographers, geologists, and others, have been working to rectify this gap in our knowledge of the planet. One exciting new step they've taken is the new Census of Marine Life.

The scale of this project was fantastic: over 2700 scientists, from more than 80 different countries, publishing 2600 papers over the course of a decade, spending countless hours on field expeditions and lab analysis. The recently published Census shows an impressive scale of oceanic diversity: 120,000 species, from plankton to whales and everything in between, were observed through the course of this project. Multiple maps were created to show where different organisms live.

Still, as impressive and large scale as this census of the oceans is, it's far from comprehensive. On the maps of organism ranges, there are places that show where the sea has yet to be explored. Dr. Ian Poiner, chair of the Census Steering Committee, claims that there are still at least 3/4 of a million species in our oceans that remain undiscovered. This is just a start to understanding our fellow creatures beneath the waves. There's a lot yet to learn. Space may be the final frontier, but the ocean holds tantilizing opportunities for exploration as well.

For more information on the Marine Life Census, and to explore the OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System) database, visit the Census of Marine Life.

Source: Science Daily: First Census of Marine Life shows ocean life is richer, more connected, more altered than expected