The Census of Marine Life: goals, scope and strategy


  • Kristen Yarincik Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education
  • Ron O'Dor Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education



oceans, species, biogeography, biohistory, diversity


The Census of Marine Life aims to assess and explain the changing diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine species from the past to the present, and to project future ocean life. It assembles known historical data back to 1500 in an online Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and has over 1000 scientists from 70 countries using advanced technologies to quantify and discover unknown life in under-explored ocean realms. Over 99% of the 6 million records now in OBIS are from the top 1000m of the water column, so the mid-waters and floor of the open ocean and the polar ice oceans are special targets. Even where the species are known, their distributions and abundance are largely speculative. This report outlines the strategies of COML projects to efficiently reveal the 95% of the biosphere beneath the waves, from microbes to whales. Open access to the OBIS data set will improve capacity to predict future impacts of climate and human activity. The baseline created by 2010 and the calibrated techniques developed will become important tools for monitoring and managing future ocean ecosystems to maintain their capacity to provide crucial services to our blue planet.


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How to Cite

Yarincik K, O’Dor R. The Census of Marine Life: goals, scope and strategy. Sci. mar. [Internet]. 2005Jun.30 [cited 2024Apr.20];69(S1):201-8. Available from:




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