What was the Census of Marine Life?
The international Census of Marine Life culminated in 2010 after a decade of exploration and research on the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans – past, present, and future. More than 2,700 scientists in 80+ countries collaborated to study and synthesize information on marine biodiversity at an unprecedented scope and scale from microbes to whales in all ocean realms. In addition to discovering and describing more than 1,200 new species, the Census documented oceans richer in diversity, more connected through distribution and movements of animals, and more impacted by humans.
What did the Census accomplish?
The first Census of Marine Life:
- Established a baseline against which future change can be measured.
- Created the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (www.iobis.org), the world’s largest online repository of geo-referenced data that will provide data for policy makers, teachers, and students alike for years to come
- Adapted and refined technology used to explore the global ocean
- 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.
- Added to what is known about life in the ocean, including formally identifying 1,200 new species and increasing the estimate of life in the ocean from 230,000- to nearly 250,000.
- Collaborated with the Encyclopedia of Life to complete ~ 90,000 marine species pages.
- Supported the World Register of Marine Species, which determined that, excluding microbes, about 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 ocean.
- Proved that a global census was possible and served as a model for large international science programs of the future.
- Built individual, institutional, national and regional capacity so that, through its young alumni, the Census will contribute to marine life knowledge for decades to come.
From their FAQ.