Census of Marine Life: How Many Fish, Sea Anemones, and Clams Live in the Ocean, and Where Do They Live?
Dr. Daphne Fautin, University of Kansas
March 28, 2008
The Census of Marine Life is a decade-long effort to develop a first inventory of life in our seas.
Covering two-thirds of the globe's
surface, the oceans represent the largest habitat on earth - but we have
only the most general knowledge of what lives there. About a quarter of a
million species are currently known from the oceans. Thanks to
discoveries by the Census of Marine Life, some estimates put the actual
number at four times that -- or perhaps even more. New technologies as
well as old approaches have brought together about 2000 scientists from
more than 70 countries to try to build a picture of marine biodiversity.
What is found will serve as a baseline for understanding changes in the
marine environment, which are occurring rapidly and have been difficult to
quantify. Data from the projects and assembly of what had previously been
known will be assembled into a first Census of Marine Life report in late
2010. The projects have already brought attention to this vast, amazingly
unknown part of the planet that affects the lives of us all, whether we
live in Tahiti or Chicago.
Daphne Fautin is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and
Professor, Curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology of Natural
History Museum, at the University of Kansas. She serves on the
International Steering Committee of the Ocean Biogeographic Information
System, the data component of the Census of Marine Life, and is a member
(and formerly Chair) of the US National Committee for the Census of Marine
Life. She is a Vice Chair of the Science Committee of the Global
Biodiversity Information Facility. She was editor of the Annual Review of
Ecology and Systematics from 1992 until 2001.