The first ever global census of the sea has been completed ten years after the project was initiated.
The Census of Marine Life cost over $650 million, but produced an extensive body of knowledge. Over 30 million observations were made over the ten year period, by a staggering 2,700 scientists who hailed from 80 of the world’s nations. Overall 9,000 days were spent at sea during observations and there were 2,600 scientific papers produces throughout the undertaking. Over 120,000 species were documented, all of which is available on a free database.
The project has established a ‘global baseline’ for making assessments of the ocean’s health and its inhabitants for the future, according to current steering committee chair of the project, Australian ecologist Ian Pointer.
Pointer’s predecessor, Fred Gassle from Rutgers University's Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences commented:
"To understand the ocean, you really have to deal with the diversity of species, because the greatest diversity on the planet is in the ocean. The majority of that diversity is in the deep parts of the ocean, which have really only begun to be explored by the census."
The census showed that the oceans are far more rich in life and diversity than previously anticipated and that many species are also more interconnected than previously thought.
The study also shows that impacts from human activity are taking their toll on ocean life. In cases where changes have occurred to marine populations, recovery takes a long time, according to Pointer.