A new paper published in Nature Communications serves as an excellent reminder of the long-term value of ocean research and data collection. This paper provides the first holistic analysis of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), which is a legacy of the Census of Marine Life – a global initiative that COL managed for a decade that drew to a close in 2010. While the Census produced thousands of new discoveries during its tenure, it is wonderful to see that seven years after the Census ended, data has been used to identify 30 distinct marine realms that represent the distribution of species and wider biodiversity. This is a great reminder of two important concepts: first, that we can continue to learn from publicly archived data for many years, so plans and architectures for data archival are crucial to all research. While we often expect new discoveries to come from new data, we mustn’t forget the importance of data mining and the ability to access information that has already been collected, often in concert with newer data. Second, the ocean data being collected today, as well as the analysis it supports, may be essential in future research in ways we can’t envision now, to include decisions by future mariners, policy-makers, agencies, and industries across the global ocean. Just as the Census has had applications for marine reserves, biodiversity assessments, and climate studies that we couldn’t imagine at its beginning, today’s research will undoubtedly provide keen insight and inform decisions in the future that we can’t comprehend at present.
On a somewhat related note, the diverse knowledge and innovative ideas shared at last week’s Global Marine Science Summit held by University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) will undoubtedly lead to future opportunities and solutions regarding coastal communities and economies around the world. I was honored to participate in this impressive event. I salute the leadership and facilitators at UNCW (a COL member) who brought together science, policy, and economics experts from many U.S. and international ocean communities at their impressive Center for Marine Science to share ideas and knowledge from myriad perspectives. “Eco-tiles” for shoreline reinforcement in Australia, pig manure to grow beneficial (edible?) algae instead of using it for coastal fertilization that leaches harmful nutrients into coastal waters, an integrated Africa Maritime Strategy for 2050, profitable tuna aquaculture in Japan … these are just a few of the topics that were presented and discussed that inspired me with hope and optimism regarding my outlook for sustainable and healthy coastal ocean ecosystems and communities in the future.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Scientists believe they’ve identified a key process affecting the melting of an enormous glacier in East Antarctica, bigger than the state of California. And the effects may only worsen with future climate change. Using satellite imagery and wind data from the past 15 years, a group of scientists from the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Australia, demonstrate that increases in East Antarctica’s Totten Ice Shelf’s ice flow are associated with changes in surface winds, which help to sweep colder surface waters aside and allow warm water to well up from the bottom of the ocean. This warm water is then able to seep into the cavity beneath the ice shelf, as previous studies have indicated, causing an increase in melting and a faster flow of ice.