Probably one million or more marine species call Ocean home. The ocean covers not only 71% of Earth's surface, it is also more than 99% of our biosphere (Earth’s habitable space). Life originated in the ocean and still holds the highest variety of unique forms of life of any ecosystem on this planet. The importance of species diversity for marine ecosystem functioning is well known. However, our knowledge of ocean biodiversity is highly variable and very deficient. Less than 10% of the ocean had any long-term biological sampling in the last 10 years, and the sampling that did occur was focused close to developed areas of the globe. To monitor and assess biodiversity and to support science-based decisions it is important that we gain a much better understanding of where species live, why, in what abundance, and how these factors are changing through time.
Our Work on Biodiversity
The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) is one of our flagship data systems. OBIS is a global data platform that integrates, quality controls and provides access to over 60 million occurrence records of 135,000 different marine species and that number is growing by millions every year. OBIS is built by the contribution of thousands of scientists who collaborate with data managers to make scientific data available for research, management and public awareness. Every year, OBIS is used in over 100 scientific papers. The UN World Ocean Assessment and the assessments as part of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services all use OBIS to report on the state of our ocean.
In collaboration with the GOOS Biology and Ecosystems Panel, the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) and UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), we are developing standard data flows and publication for all components of the Marine Habitat Properties through OBIS. All components of these Essential Ocean Variables are being considered as headline indicators for the CBD Post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
One of the major threats to ocean biodiversity are invasive species transported by human activity. The Pacific islands Marine bioinvasions Alert Network (PacMAN) project of the IOC aims to develop a monitoring program for marine invasive species in the Pacific SIDS (small island developing states). In collaboration with local stakeholders in Fiji and the University of the South Pacific, as well as scientific experts from the marine field, PacMAN will utilize environmental DNA methods to provide early warnings of invasive species. We will develop a decision support tool for policy makers, and in this way facilitate the protection of the marine ecosystem and the services it provides.
For the IOC Intergovernmental Panel on Harmful Algal Blooms we are maintaining and developing a global data and information system on harmful microalgae and the harm they cause via the OBIS data platform and connecting with complementary databases.