A group of international researchers have compiled the first ever global atlas cataloguing marine plankton
(organisms that are too small to swim against the ocean currents) - ranging in size from bacteria to jellyfish.
The atlas known as the Marine Ecosystem Biomass Data (MAREDAT), will help researchers to identify where,
when, and how much oceanic plankton can be found around the globe.
The MAREDAT is a contribution to better understanding of marine biodiversity for conservation and monitoring
of fascinating underwater habitats of our planet.
A deep sea dwelling Foraminifera showing red cytoplasma. Picture: Ralf Schiebel, Universite d'Angers, France
"One of the more surprising findings from the study is that phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass are roughly
the same size in the upper ocean.
Antarctic ice fish (Notothenioidei)
Compare that to more familiar land ecosystems where the biomass of plants
greatly exceeds that of animals and it's pretty illuminating," says WHOI Senior Scientist and Marine Chemist
Scott Doney, a collaborator on the project.
Thus far, it has catalogued about half a million measurements of plankton biomass, which are subdivided into
12 broad plankton groups. Each group has a separate database.
"The data and documentation can be downloaded by any researcher so that they can explore their own scientific
questions," Doney says.
The MAREDAT atlas catalogues marine plankton including single-celled animals, foraminifera. (Photo courtesy of Ralf Schiebel, Universite d'Angers.)
"Over time we hope to grow the database by adding other historical and newly collected data for plankton
groups already in the database as well as extend into different plankton groups."
Calanoida Sp. Credits: Wikimedia
The first edition of the MAREDAT global plankton atlas took three years to compile and combines information
from half a million data points.