First Ever Global Atlas Presents
Fascinating World Of Underwater Organisms

22 July, 2013

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Follow us: - 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.

Northern krill Meganyctiphanes norvegica - Credits: Wikimedia

The data will have a wide-range of application across ocean and climate science including helping scientists create computer models to predict the impact of climate change and ocean acidification.

The MAREDAT database is open-source and available through a public website.

The atlas is published in a special issue of the journal Earth System Science Data.

In this large-scale project coordinated by researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of East Anglia (UK), participated scientists from many scientific institutions around the world.

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