Alarming knowledge gaps in the global status of marine life

Teeming with abundant life, the ocean is an important source of food and livelihoods, with over three billion people in the world depending on it. Unfortunately, marine life and ocean health are declining. But how rapidly this decline is happening and where it is the fastest are dangerous gaps in our understanding of global marine ecosystems.

While nations, foundations and businesses are ready to invest in mitigating biodiversity decline through actions such as restoration and carbon sequestration, the lack of information can make investments a lottery. The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and its partners have recently identified our knowledge gaps on the status of marine life in a recent study published in Frontiers in Marine Science journal, with results that call for prioritized action.
A  fundamental concept to the implementation of GOOS are the Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) – key measurements to describe the state of the ocean. The GOOS Biology and Ecosystems (BioEco) expert panel has identified 13 biological EOVs, such as microbes, phytoplankton, fish, marine mammals, macroalgae and seagrass. These 13 EOVs play a critical role in addressing the information needs of 24 international conventions and multilateral agreements and play an essential role in addressing our lack of information about the health of marine life.

However, the recently published study revealed that the coverage of biological EOVs is incomplete and uneven - in fact, the 203 active long term observing programs that responded to the global survey cover only 7% of the entire ocean surface. The open ocean and some parts of the South American, Eastern European, Asian, Oceania and African coasts were especially underrepresented. The results are alarming, as they suggest that the lack of information is often greatest where it is needed the most: in areas of high biodiversity with intense human pressures.


The full article can be found at

The original publication (25.10.2021) ‘Establishing the Foundation for the Global Observing System for Marine Life’ can be found at