Tuesday, April 3, 2012

From the Tiny to the Enormous – Images and Inventory of Marine Life

The Census of Marine Life has a gallery of images and videos from over a decade of international research documenting the diversity (how many different types), abundance (how many), and distribution (where they live) of life in the ocean.

This is the first most comprehensive census ever taken of marine life.   Discoveries included, many new species, species that were thought to be long extinct, and new habitat and areas where fish and predators interact and congregate.

Researchers were surprised to find giant squid, multicellular species living in areas lacking oxygen where only microbes were thought to thrive, as well as giant mats of algae that are among the world’s largest life masses.

Animal migration routes and breeding areas that need protection were mapped. Off the coast of New Jersey, scientists observed a shoal of fish the size of Manhattan! (A shoal is similar to a school of fish only the fish do not swim consistently in the same direction)

The data collected has been put into science papers, encyclopedias, maps, a report on highlights and a database.  There are an estimated nearly 250,000 of known species in the ocean and total species may be over a million -  excluding microbes which there may be over a billion different kinds of species.

The effort also looked human impacts on the ocean.  According to the policy report, “disposal of waste and litter had the most significant anthropogenic impact on the deep sea. Presently, the biggest impact comes from exploitation (e.g. fisheries, hydrocarbon, and mineral resources). In the future, climate change is likely to bring more global effects, including warming, ocean acidification, and expansion of hypoxic and oxygen minimum zones.”

Species                          Ocean Biodiversity

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