The ocean remains a mystery

The world that exists within the ocean is still largely a mystery to science, according to experts compiling an international database of marine species.

There are an estimated one million different species within the ocean waters, and as many as two thirds still remain unknown, according to the new study published in the journal Current Biology. Canada, which has 200,000 kilometres of coastline, more than any nation on Earth, is a world leader in marine research — but even researchers here are surprised by the findings.

It was just last year that scientists published research estimating that there are around 10 million different species on the planet. “There are an amazing amount of things, especially in the ocean, that we don’t know in terms of biodiversity,” Gerhard Pohle, acting executive director of the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, N.B told Vancouver Sun.

“It’s staggering to think that as recently as 2011, we did not know how many species there are in the world by order of magnitude. The estimates were anywhere from three to 100 million species globally. That was it. I’m somebody who works on this and when I saw it, I couldn’t believe it,” he continued.

Of the one million marine species speculated, A World Register of Marine Species has catalogued 226,000 of them, and another 72,000 specimens have been collected and are in queue to receive a description.

Study author Ward Appeltans wrote about the importance of their research: “Knowing what lives in the ocean is fundamental to appreciate, care and protect it. Having a single catalogue of all known marine species is like an index in a library. We can all start using the same species names, avoid confusion over names and make less mistakes.”

“It is good though that there is increased interest in biodiversity,” he wrote. “We are now not only looking at the stars, but also what lives on our planet. We can no longer neglect how much we depend on the ecosystem services and how each species contributes to the functioning of our biosphere.”

The registrar will provide an invaluable resource for ocean research.

The world registry encouraged Canada to create the Canadian Registry of Marine Species, and Canada has been a large contributor to the international database.

The open access online database gives scientists the chance to focus on analysing and collecting the information, rather than maintaining and cataloguing various different databases.

Sources: Current Biology, Vancouver Sun

Photo © Malaer

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