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Improving the Global Ocean Observing System: Challenges and Way Forward

The more we use the ocean, the more it changes.

From transport and recreation to renewal engery and waste disposal, the number of people depending on the oceans is growing each and every day. As changes occur, life within the ocean is being affected. This can have potential consequences for the valuable services the ocean provides, from food to the oxygen we breathe.

So that we can understand how ocean life is responding to human use, we need standardized and regular, long-term observations. Without the knowledge generated by these observations, we will not be able to predict potential future changes and plan accordingly – either by effectively managing or mitigating adverse changes, or by responding to any new opportunities. And yet, not all ocean life can be monitored everywhere, anytime. Nor does it need to be. Relevant changes in marine biodiversity, its function, and the services it provides can be detected by monitoring some of its essential variables.

In the face of climate change, many of the world’s nations seek to improve their capabilities in forecasting and managing marine resources. As a result, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) was established. Created in 1991 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational and the Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), GOOS would help to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, for the better use and protection of the ocean and coastal zones.

Over the next three decades, the observing systems developed and implemented by GOOS partners, and efforts of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN Environment (UNEP), and the International Council for Science (ICSU), have provided the framework to evaluate the role of the ocean in the global climate system. These efforts have also helped to build the operational oceanography infrastructure used by marine industries today such as fisheries and shipping trade, and environmental agencies around the world. What’s more, GOOS data streams support climate assessments of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Information which is increasingly becoming the basis for assessing ocean health and changes that may occur in the future.

This article was featured in the September/October 2018 issue of ECO. To continue reading, click here.

Words by Patricia Miloslavich, Nic Bax, Samantha Simmons, Daniel Dunn and Albert Fischer, Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)

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