The big count

Inventory in the seas of the world

Aug 'in Aug' with a hermit crab A. Collins / NOAA
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Crawling life in 407 degrees Celsius, from sub-sea geysers streaming liquid, giant microbes of a centimeter in diameter, a school of fish as big as Manhattan these are just a few of the fascinating discoveries of six years ongoing oceanic inventory "Census of Marine Life". More than 2, 000 researchers from 80 countries work together to capture the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in this "census".

The 17 main projects of the census cover the work of scientific organizations in all parts of the ocean. Nine regional and national committees ensure that all areas of the ocean are represented. Everyone involved has put together their talents and specialties, ships and laboratories, archives and technologies for this mammoth project. They went on 19 expeditions, for example to the Southern Ocean, and brought more new species on deck than known for over a hundred years.

Census participants traced more than 20 species across the open ocean, from sharks and cuttlefish to sea lions and albatrosses, which spread hundreds of thousands of miles across national and international waters. With the help of sound waves, participants outlined fish shoals that spanned many kilometers and whose three-dimensional extent could not be determined earlier by one-dimensional measurements.

The international connections, cooperation and sharing of all data in the Census bring the researchers closer to the goal of capturing by 2010 what has lived, lives and perhaps will live in the world's oceans. At the end of 2006, the contributors drew a first big picture of what they had achieved - and that was indeed record-breaking.

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Nadja Podbregar / Census of Marine Life
As of: 12.01.2007 Display