Biggest Marine Census Complete

The Census of Marine Life has identified more than 6,000 potentially new species during a decade of exploring the world's oceans. Video.

The Census of Marine Life has released its findings of ten years of research and exploration of the world's oceans. The first-ever study of its kind, involving 2700 scientists from 80 nations, identified more than 6,000 potentially new species. The effort will help researchers observe how marine populations change in response to events such as oil spills and climate change.

© 2010 National Geographic, Census of Marine Life



Breathe in.

Now, breathe in again.

Every second breath you take, comes from the ocean.

No matter who you are, or where you live, your life depends on the ocean and the creatures that live there.

From the tiniest organisms, to the biggest.

But for something so important to our lives, we know surprisingly little about it.

In 2000, The Census of Marine Life embarked on a mission to change that.

This 10-year effort used the latest technologies as well as time-tested techniques to explore and monitor life in the oceans,

It was a landmark collaboration that involved more than:

2700 scientists

80 nations

600 institutions

500 expeditions

And 9000 days at sea.

Census scientists recorded the locations of tens of millions of individual marine organisms.

Some finds were thrilling.

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 bluefin tuna were scarce in waters where they once thrived.

In many areas, scientists found species that are completely new to science.

In all, researchers found more than 6000 potentially new marine species, and formally described 1200 of them.

And for the first time, scientists created a digital "address book" of what lives in the oceans.

Made up of nearly 30 million records, this resource is accessible for free to researchers and the public worldwide.

Thanks to this unprecedented effort, now there's a baseline -- a snapshot of what lives in the sea and where it was found, against which future change can be measured.

We can see how populations change over time, what stays the same, and what's at stake for our ocean's future.

And hopefully because of the Census of Marine Life, we can all ...breathe a little easier.