Census of Marine Life: A Decade of Discovery
First Census Shows Life in Planet Ocean is Richer, More Connected, More Impacted than Expected Culminating a 10-year exploration, 2,700 scientists from 80 nations report first Census of Marine Life, revealing what, where, and how much lives and hides in global oceans; To measure changes caused by climate or oil spills, Census establishes a baseline;New species discovered, marine highways and rest stops mapped, diminished abundance documented; Online Census directory allows anyone to map global addresses of species.
The first Census of Marine Life produced the most comprehensive inventory of known marine life ever compiled and cataloged it as a basis for future research—30 million records as of January 2011 and counting! This first baseline picture of ocean life—past, present, and future—can be used to forecast, measure, and understand changes in the global marine environment, as well as to inform the management and conservation of marine resources.
The Census investigated life in the global ocean from microbes to whales, from top to bottom, from pole to pole, bringing together the world’s preeminent marine biologists, who shared ideas, data, and results.
During their 10 years of discovery, Census scientists discovered new species, habitats, and connections and unlocked many of the ocean’s long-held secrets. They found and formally described more than 1, 200 new marine species, with another 5,000 or more in the pipeline awaiting formal description. They discovered areas in the ocean where animals congregate, from white shark cafés in the open ocean to an evening rush hour in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to a shoal of fish the size of Manhattan off the coast of New Jersey, USA.
While unlocking many secrets, investigators also documented long-term and widespread declines in marine life as well as resilience of the ocean in areas where recovery was apparent.
Summary of Census of Marine Life Achievements
• Established a baseline of marine life diversity, distribution, and abundance against which future change can be measured.
• Aggregated more than 30 million of species-level records obtained before and outside the Census and added millions more from its own field work, including 1,200 newly discovered and described species. Another 5,000 or more await formal description.
• Created the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, the world’s largest online repository of geo-referenced data that nations can use to develop national and regional assessments and to meet their obligations to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international commitments.
• Mapped migration routes and breeding areas that can be used to protect animals’ oceanic transit routes.
• Identified well-explored areas and those where further exploration is warranted.
• Showed through studies of environmental history that some marine habitats and living resources have been impacted by humans for thousands of years. With protection recovery is slow but possible. Coastal and enclosed seas are the most impacted.
• Determined that in the deep sea, past impacts were mainly from disposal of waste and litter. Today, fisheries, and hydrocarbon and mineral extraction have the greatest impact In the future, climate change is predicted to have the greatest impact.
• Collaborated with the Encyclopedia of Life to complete 90,000 marine species pages and provided and continues to serve as the marine component of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
• Supported the World Register of Marine Species, which confirmed that, excluding microbes approximately 250,000 valid marine species have been formally described in the scientific literature, with an estimated at least 750,000 more species remaining to be described.Also, estimated that more than a billion types of microbes may live in the oceans.
• Built individual, institutional, national and regional capacity. Through its young alumni, the Census will contribute to marine life knowledge for decades to come.
Resources for Scientists and Policy Makers
Global Marine Life Database: The Ocean Biogeographic Information System allows users to search marine species datasets from all the world’s oceans.
Ocean Life Map: A new map of ocean life produced in conjunction with National Geographic.
The Census on Google Earth: Describes Census of Marine Life findings in the ocean layer of Google Earth.
Census of Marine Life Community Database: Find members of the Census of Marine Life community.
PLoS One Collections: Collected Census of Marine Life articles, grouped by project, published by the Public Library of Science.
Special Issue Journals: Scientific journals featuring collections of Census papers grouped by project.
A Summary for Decision Makers: Scientific Results to Support the Sustainable Use and Conservation of Marine Life is designed to help policy makers determine how results of the first Census of Marine Life might be used to craft science-based policy.
Essays: Census-inspired essays, editorials, interviews, and conversations by members of the Scientific Steering Committee and other involved individuals.
First Census of Marine Life 2010: Highlights of a Decade of Discovery
The 64-page report that describes some of the scientific highlights of ten years of exploration, research and analysis undertaken by Census of Marine Life scientists. Included is a description of the Census research projects and organizational structure.
Highlights Reports Archive: Download PDF versions of the annual Highlights Reports, Draft Plan, and Project Annual Reports.
News Coverage Archive: Selected articles from the world press highlighting Census research.