World Ocean Census: A Global Survey of Marine Life

Overview

"[A] distillation of a decade of exploration, magnificently illustrated and eloquently written. Some will treasure World Ocean Census as a valuable reference, others as a place to find white-knuckle adventures."

— From the foreword by Sylvia Earle

An insider's description of the comprehensive Census of Marine Life and what it reveals about a seriously threatened ecosystem.

The Census of Marine Life was ...

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Overview

"[A] distillation of a decade of exploration, magnificently illustrated and eloquently written. Some will treasure World Ocean Census as a valuable reference, others as a place to find white-knuckle adventures."

— From the foreword by Sylvia Earle

An insider's description of the comprehensive Census of Marine Life and what it reveals about a seriously threatened ecosystem.

The Census of Marine Life was launched in 2000 with the goal of producing the first-ever ocean census by 2010. Two thousand scientists from 82 nations agreed to the mandate to answer three important questions:

  • What once lived in the global ocean?
  • What is living there now?
  • What will live there in the future?

With the census nearing completion,
scientists around the world will inherit critical data that will be studied for decades to come. This data will be a basis for answering such simple questions as "What will become of sharks, whales, reefs and salmon?"

This book deals with the adventures and experiences of the Census of Marine Life and the process of gathering the data, revealing the stories behind the science. The authors detail the most fascinating findings and exciting discoveries — the thrills encountered and the difficulties overcome — all illustrated with fabulous images captured during the project's explorations.

The text readily engages the reader, and the photographs are as beautiful as they are accurate. The information is comprehensive, compelling and current, and it represents an enormous group effort by some of the world's leading scientists.

The organization of the book follows the three-part census mandate. Individual sections focus on a range of topics, from the logistics of the census to the space-age technology used to project the uncertain future of the world's oceans. The book is fully illustrated and provides informative captions and sidebars of data.

World Ocean Census is a unique record of a monumental global undertaking, worthy of a wide audience with a variety of interests.

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Editorial Reviews

about.com - Jennifer Kennedy
I love books that can easily be read by both a layperson and a scientist, and this is one of them. There's enough background information that anyone could pick up this book and enjoy it, but enough technical information to make the book a useful reference for someone who works with marine life. 5/5 stars.
AkN Science blogspot.com - N. S. Arun Kumar
The book is at its best when it offers glimpses of the astonishing array of sea creatures revealed by the survey. It includes critical data that will be studied for decades to come....Hundreds of breathtaking, full-color photographs plunge one deep into the ocean to see some of the millions of species - from the smallest microbes to the largest whales - that dwell beneath the waves.
American Reference Books Annual - Ralph Lee Scott
The World Ocean Census is compilation of a 10-year research effort into examining marine life.... Overall, this is an attractive book and it is modestly priced. Most general readers will find topics of interest.
Booklist - Nancy Bent
The excitement of discovery, particularly the almost constant revelation of species new to science, shines through what could have been dry reportage, and numerous photographs, many of the new species, illuminate the text.
Choice - J. C. Briggs
This volume is a visual treat with its beautiful photographs of marine life from all parts of the ocean. Recommended.
Oceanography - Charles H. Greene
As the Census [of Marine Life] draws to a conclusion, it is an appropriate time to assess its accomplishments. World Ocean Census: A Global Survey of Marine Life is the first attempt to present these accomplishments in a format that is accessible to a broad audience. With its striking photography and high production standards, the book unfolds as a visual celebration of the Census. Marine biodiversity and the excitement of ocean exploration come alive as the reader thumbs through the pages and marvels at images collected from Census projects throughout the world ocean. As a coffee-table book, World Ocean Census succeeds admirably.... The most memorable message of World Ocean Census is that we must explore the ocean and understand its biodiversity before it's too late.... World Ocean Census is a start in the right direction.
Saskatoon Star Phoenix - Bill Robertson
This lavishly illustrated book comes in three parts: What Lived in the Ocean?, What Lives in the Ocean?, and What Will Live in the Ocean?, and along the way talks of the global ocean conveyor belt, the disappearing ice oceans, and the mystery of new life forms. The creatures range from the microscopic to a great white shark, cruising with its mouth wide open.
USA Today - Dan Vergano
About the only corner of the planet neglected by [a] world atlas, the ocean teems with hidden stories uncovered in this first-ever census of marine life... The survey reveals some of those hidden denizens of the deep, from the vampire squid to the flamingo tongue snail to the shoulderbar soldierfish, each as exotic-looking as their names. Census scientists have tagged seals, salmon and sooty shearwater shorebirds with transmitters to follow migrations. Arctic and Antarctic expeditions reveal changing populations under the pressure of a warming ocean. And everywhere looms the threat of extinction for overfished seafood stocks. "Above all, the breakthroughs in knowledge gained, and awareness of the magnitude of what remains to be discovered, inspire hope that the greatest era of ocean exploration - and ocean care - will now begin.
Nature Vol 462/19 - Mark Schrope
The book is at its best when it offers glimpses of the astonishing array of sea creatures revealed by the survey... [It] is full of high-quality photographs [that] reveal strange, recently discovered species... Fittingly, World Ocean Census begins and ends with spectacular photos of jellyfish, which are supremely suited to exploiting the niches created by overfishing. How humans respond to the trends revealed by the census will largely determine whether this 'jellification' of the ocean will continue, or if crippled marine populations may have a chance to recover.
Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association - A. Hauge
The articles are written in an open and accessible style.
Science Books and Film - Frank M. Truesdale
The general public, students, and even scientists interested in getting up to speed on the latest will find this book a captivating read. I would like to think that every high school library would have a copy of the book and that advisors would bring it to the attention of students contemplating a career in things oceanic. The works of William Beebe, Rachel Carson, and Jacques Cousteau inflected the careers of past and present marine scientists; this book promises a future in studies of the global ocean that those pioneers could never have envisioned.
SciTech Book News
Since 2000, thousands of scientists have been engaged in the Census of Marine Life, with the goals of determining what lived in the world's oceans in the past, what lives there now, and what will live there in the future. This visually stunning and highly readable book deals with the adventures and experiences of the scientists involved with the Census, and with how they are gathering data using both modern research vessels and sources as diverse as old whaling logbooks, fish bones found in archaeological digs, restaurant menus, and old photographs and postcards. Individual sections focus on topics including the logistics of the census and the cutting-edge technology used to project the uncertain future of the world's oceans. Profusely illustrated (mainly in full color), this volume should appeal to a wide audience.
This visually stunning and highly readable book deals with the adventures and experiences of the scientists involved with the Census, and with how they are gathering data using both modern research vessels and sources as diverse as old whaling logbooks, fish bones found in archaeological digs, restaurant menus, and old photographs and postcards. Individual sections focus on topics including the logistics of the census and the cutting-edge technology used to project the uncertain future of the world's oceans. Profusely illustrated (mainly in full color), this volume should appeal to a wide audience.
ARCTIC
For those with a natural curiosity about our ocean planet, this new book by an award-winning author and two experienced marine educators is indeed timely and well-written. Superbly designed, the book evokes the majesty and mystery of life in the oceans through the use of captivating photographs, novel graphics, and easy-to-read text. Thorough and consistently high editorial standards are readily apparent.
Library Journal
The Census of Marine Life is a global network of scientists in more than 80 nations involved in a ten-year project to assess and explain the diversity of life in the oceans. On first examination, this appears to be a typical oversize book dedicated to beautiful underwater photography; however, in well-written text, Crist (American Gargoyles), Gail Scowcroft (associate director, Office of Marine Programs, Univ. of Rhode Island), and marine scientist James M. Harding Jr. describe the various aspects of the Census for the educated layperson. Illustrated with examples of creatures found in all parts of the oceans, including many newly discovered and never-before-described species, chapters cover the different project groups, how they are gathering and publishing data, and why this is important. Several one- to four-page inserts explain such concepts as hydrothermal processes and the global ocean current conveyor belt. VERDICT Intended to promote this important project, scheduled to be completed in 2010, this will appeal to readers attracted to nature photography as well as anyone interested in the ocean, science, or global climate change. Also useful for high school or college courses on climate, oceanography, or biology.—Maggie Roux, MBLWHOI Lib., Woods Hole, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554074341
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/17/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 814,732
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Darlene Trew Crist is an award-winning writer and the author of American Gargoyles. Her recent work has focused on raising awareness about the health of the world ocean and related marine issues through her media relations work with the Census of Marine Life.

Gail Scowcroft is the associate director of the Office of Marine Programs at the University of Rhode Island. She conducted research on global climate reconstruction and climate change at URI and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and developed and administered ocean science education programs. She is currently serving as the national network director for the Centers of Ocean Sciences Education Excellence.

James M. Harding, Jr., is a marine scientist and educator and works at the University of Rhode Island. He has spent much of his life in, under, on and around the ocean. He has taught marine biology and field research, swum with humpback whales and studied artisanal lobster fishermen.

Sylvia Earle, PhD, is an advocate of undersea research whose work has earned her recognition as Ambassador for the World's Oceans. She has served as chief scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and is explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Foreword by Sylvia Earle
Introduction

PART ONE: WHAT LIVED IN THE OCEAN?
1 / The Known, the Unknown and the Unknowable
The Great Unknown
The Census of Marine Life

2 / Painting a Picture of the Past
What Once Lived in the Ocean
Records of Decline
In Quest of a Zero-Year Baseline
Managing the Fisheries
Charting a New Course of Study

PART TWO: WHAT LIVES IN THE OCEAN?
3 / Expanding the Use of Technology
Reaching the Research Sites
Using Sound to "See" Under Water
Advances in Optical
Technology
Collecting Specimens
Studying the Movements of Marine Life
Identifying the Collected Species
Census Data Available to the World

4 / Animals as Ocean Observers
Developments in Tagging
Facing Extremes

5 / Disappearing Ice Oceans
Uncovering Hidden Oceans
Surprises in the Southern Ocean
Opening Windows of Knowledge

6 / Unexpected Diversity at the Edges of the Sea
Coral Reefs in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands
The Gulf of Maine: Past and Present
A New Habitat for Alaska
The Way Forward

7 / Unexplored Ecosystems: Vents, Seeps, Seamounts and Abyssal Plains
Hydrothermal Vents

Continental Margins and Cold-Water Seeps
Seamounts
Abyssal Plains

8 / Unraveling the Mystery of New Life-Forms
The Name Game
Identifying the Drifters
Where No One Has Gone Before
A Window Below the Ice
Eyes and Ears in the Deep
Visualizing the Invisible
Looking Ahead

PART THREE: WHAT WILL LIVE IN THE OCEAN?
9 / Forecasting the Future
The Demise of the Great Sharks
Changes in Fisheries Practice Help Whales

10 / The Path Forward
The Census Has Made a Difference

Glossary
Further Reading
Photo Credits
Index

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Preface

Foreword

By Sylvia Earle, PhD
Ambassador for the World's Oceans and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence

The only other place comparable to these marvelous nether regions, must surely be naked space itself ... where the blackness of space, the shining planets, suns and stars must really be closely akin to the world of life as it appears to the eyes of an awed human being, in the open sea half a mile down.
- William Beebe, HALF MILE DOWN

Until recently, many had the impression that the diversity of life in the sea was much lower than the complexity and richness of life on the land, especially tropical rainforests and temperate woodlands. It is easy to understand how this misconception arose — largely because of the immense diversity of insects, especially beetles, altogether comprising about half of all the species thus far named that live on land. More important, humans are terrestrial, air-breathing creatures able to travel everywhere over the face of the land, even to the highest mountains, driest deserts and coldest polar regions, and thus are familiar with the various creatures great and small that live on land. Accessing the sea is more challenging.

Although the ocean comprises 99 percent of the biosphere and only 5 percent of that has been seen — let alone explored — it is little wonder that misconceptions have developed about the true nature of life on Earth. Fortunately, new technologies enhance our ability to find and document life from sunlit reefs to the deepest, darkest seas — and the results are magnificently portrayed in this volume. Great challenges remain, but those involved with the Census of Marine Life have made giant strides in evaluating the nature of the past, present and future of life in the sea, and thus of life on Earth.

Far from being monotonous empty space, as some have long believed, the ocean everywhere is alive. In a single swirl of salt water, a plankton-feeding whale shark may swallow the larval or adult stages of 15 or more phyla (or divisions) of animals — as many as all terrestrial phyla of animals combined. That single gulp also will likely contain a dozen or so phyla of Protists, including minute photosynthetic forms that do much of the heavy lifting in terms of generating oxygen and transforming water combined with carbon dioxide into food. Then there are the microbes. Thousands of new species are being discovered in nearly every sample of seawater being analyzed with current techniques, from bacteria to members of the kingdom Archeae, discovered late in the 20th century. It is not just the small creatures that have gone unnoticed. New families as well as new genera and species of coral, sponges, echinoderms, annelids and others are turning up on nearly every dive below a thousand feet or so. When biologist-diver-explorer Richard Pyle ventures into the almost-light almost-dark region of the sea known as "the twilight zone," he finds new fish species at the rate of about seven per hour of observation.

Given the magnitude of new discoveries, and the vast areas of ocean yet to be explored, it is clear that the unknown species of marine life far exceed the 250,000 or so now accounted for. So, how many kinds of plants, animals, microbes and other forms of life are in the sea? Estimates range from a million to one hundred million, making the goal of the Census of Marine Life — taking stock of the diversity of life in the sea — one of the most ambitious undertakings in the history of humankind. In effect, it means exploring, analyzing and making some kind of systematic sense of most of life on Earth. It is a daunting but worthy goal, vital, in fact, if humankind is to achieve an understanding of the natural systems that make life on Earth possible.

The importance of the Census is made urgent because at the same time that more is being learned about the diversity of life in the sea than during all preceding history, more is being lost. Jacques Cousteau's personal perspective — from pioneering dives in the 1950s in pristine seas to an era a few decades later of "paradise lost" — inspired the world to take notice, and to act. It is not just the obvious decline of marine mammals, seabirds, fish and other wildlife owing to deliberate or incidental killing of ocean wildlife for food and products, although some, such as the Caribbean monk seal, last seen in 1952, have been eliminated thus. Numerous creatures have a narrow home range, and when their habitat is destroyed, they are lost as well. Species endemic to specific coral reefs, to individual seamounts and to highly specialized associations, such as barnacles that live only on one kind of turtle or whale or crab, are especially vulnerable. Changes in ocean temperature and chemistry through human actions, now including acidification, are causing comprehensive shifts of geological magnitude on the global environment, and in turn on the species that comprise the countless bits and pieces that make up the whole.

No one can be certain of what the consequences will be of the damage that humans have wrought to the underpinnings of what has made Earth a hospitable place for our species. No one will ever know how many kinds of creatures have been or will be destroyed as a consequence of these changes. But it is clear that maintaining the diversity of life, from individual species to large ecosystems, is the key to resilience, to holding the planet steady through the trauma of rapid climate shifts and the other unprecedented changes that are upon us. At present, about 12 percent of the land is invested in national parks and preserves, worldwide, protecting the diversity of terrestrial and freshwater species and systems while but a fraction of 1 percent of the ocean is similarly safeguarded.

In an exceptional model of international cooperation targeting a singular goal, more than two thousand Census of Marine Life scientists have delved into past records, dived into modern oceans, and extrapolated future scenarios. Together, they have yielded a priceless gift: enhanced understanding of the nature of life in the sea and its importance concerning all that humans care about — health, the economy, security and, most important, a planet that works in our favor. A distillation of their Herculean decade of exploration is contained here, magnificently illustrated and eloquently written by the authors and contributors.

Some will treasure World Ocean Census as a valuable reference, others as a place to find white-knuckle adventures. The images alone will cause many to re-evaluate their concepts of what astonishing forms are embraced within the bounds of what constitutes an eye, a heart, a body of living tissue. The underlying similarities shared by all living things — humans very much included — shine through, while maintaining wonder at the infinite capacity for diversity: from the broad divisions of life to the individual speckles and shapes that distinguish each sardine, salp and starfish from every other of its kind. Above all, the breakthroughs in knowledge gained, and awareness of the magnitude of what remains to be discovered, inspire hope that the greatest era of ocean exploration — and ocean care — will now begin.

Introduction

Unlocking the Mystery of What Lives Below the Surface of the Global Sea

For thousands of years, indigenous traditions have described the ocean as the mythological birth place of life on Earth, a mysterious place filled with life-sustaining forces. In an ancient myth of the Yurok Indians of California, two great beings, Thunder and Earthquake, worked together to create the ocean and fill it with water. The animals came to live there because of its beauty. Their story speaks of seals that came to the newly formed ocean "as if they were thrown in by handfuls." Looking upon the ocean basin they had made — vast, deep and full of water — Earthquake and Thunder were satisfied that their job was done. The ocean was large enough to provide sustenance for a

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