Thursday, October 7, 2010

Newsy: Marine Study Identifies More Than a Million Species

After a decade of research and more than 540 ocean expeditions, scientists presented the world with the first-ever census of marine life on Monday.

It might look like something straight out of a scene from The Little Mermaid. More than 2,700 scientists from 80 countries have combed the darkest depths of the seas to document aquatic habitats and discover new species. (Video: Sky News)

The Census of Life started ten years ago and during that time grew to a $650 million exploration, funded primarily by more than 600 groups, including various governments, private foundations and even five high schools.

The study found several new discoveries, both good and bad. National Geographic reports how the study allowed scientists to discover animals believed to be lost forever: “In the waters off Australia, researchers found a species of shrimp thought to have gone extinct 50 million years ago. Other discoveries however were not as encouraging. Off the coast of Northern Europe, Atlantic Blue Fin tuna were scarce in waters where they once flourished.”

In the process of exploring the deep blue sea, scientists were able to compile a database to use later down the road. One scientist tells the BBC how the data was presented in a way that was both helpful for scientists and amateur explorers: “The information has been there, but it’s been in desk drawers, in lab books, in computers and it has required a huge effort to pull of this information together to go into a database so that it is accessible for everyone, so that we can see what lives where and how many perhaps live where.”

While the study was done on a global scale, the information might solve key problems closer to home. A scientist tells The Star the research is also helping to evaluate the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: “We now have this very complete record of what was there... So this will certainly help in evaluating what sort of long-term effects the spill has had.”

The impact of the census will aid scientists for years to come, but the knowledge now could improve the lives of several species. The study brings a wealth of information into the spotlight, and as a professor tells ITN the impact will allow many to rethink what’s really swimming in our oceans: “I think we can use this knowledge we have complied to do a better job in managing our own impact and working towards a brighter future for ourselves and for the ocean.”

Writer: Matthew Hibbard

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