First Comprehensive Look at Marine Life Yields Surprises
The results of a decade of discovery by 2,700 scientists from 80 nations in the first comprehensive Census of Marine Life detail the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life. New technology “binoculars” provided an unprecedented picture of the world under the waves. Some 540 expeditions estimated diversity at 250,000 species, including 6,000 potentially new species. Researchers found living creatures everywhere, even under extreme conditions.
The census affirms that we know less about the small than the large, and that by weight, up to 90 percent of marine life is microbial. It documents a changing ocean—richer in diversity, more connected through distribution and movements, more impacted by humans, and yet less explored than we had known. It reveals long-term and widespread declines in marine life, but also resilience in areas where recovery is apparent.
This baseline will help scientists forecast, measure and understand changes in the global marine environment and better inform the management and conservation of its resources. The census’ legacy includes a promising heightened collaboration across borders.