Science and technology that can help save the ocean
On Earth, we have more accurate maps of Mars than our ocean, and that’s a problem. Massive force for climate change to survive, the ocean absorbs 90% of the heat caused by emissions and produces 50% of the oxygen we breathe. “We have the ocean to thank for many aspects of our safety and well-being,” says Dawn Wright, an oceanographer and Esri geographic information provider (GIS) Esri scientist. He noted that the ocean also provides renewable energy. source and transport corridor not only for boats but also for submarine Internet cables.
Now, smart maps and geospatial technologies that drive space exploration support an effort to better understand and protect our ocean. “For the first time, our knowledge of the ocean can approach the knowledge of the earth,” says Wright. “We can turn the unknown into a known depth.”
GIS – location-based technology intelligence is used by businesses and governments to mitigate risks, respond to crises, market analysis, and operational efficiency — in the ocean. The logic is simple: the ocean supports sustainable planets and economies, and maps with a lot of data support a sustainable ocean.
“Tons and tons of beautiful data”
More than 80% of the ocean floor is unmapped, however, full ocean maps will be key to tackling the problems of overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and loss of biodiversity. It’s easy, and topical at this point, to say “save our ocean,” but a data-driven map forces people to see why the ocean needs to be saved, where to start, and what to do. “Seeing the sea at its true depth and complexity is what we need, specifically if we hope to reduce the risk of seriously damaging or depleting marine resources,” says Wright.
Since its release in 2017, the world’s first 3D ocean map it drove the innovation revolution in ocean-related data and sustainability solutions. The 3D digital ocean map classifies global water masses into 37 different volumetric regions, known as ecological marine units, defined by factors in ecosystem health and recovery: temperature, salinity, oxygen, and nutrient levels. Scientists, environmental managers, fishermen and transporters, and citizen scientists can use the map to virtually navigate and explore the ocean.
What makes the 3D map of the world ocean possible is the technology of the company, which is able to collect and process data of great volume and variety. And there is more data along the way. “This whole idea of marine robotics is one of the big visions for the future of the ocean,” says Wright. “Robotics and sensors and other tools generate a lot of data.”
Once collected, these volumes of data are entered into a GIS where they are managed and processed using artificial intelligence (AI) to quickly identify and classify information. The output of GIS, often called location intelligence, consists of smart maps, spatial analysis, and real-time dashboards to study the coronavirus pandemic that has been seen around the world over the past year. These tools for visualizing interactive GIS data shed light on even the most complex issues and help guide policy and trade decisions based on a strong view of what is happening now and what will happen next.
“We can also make predictions based on what the data will tell us in 2030,” Wright explained. “How hot will the Florida coast be in 2050? Will these temperatures kill seagrass in that area? Will these temperatures create a red tide around Tampa that will be so toxic that it will kill all the fish there? “
‘The ocean is vulnerable’
Growing up in the Hawaiian Islands and working in American Samoa, Wright understands the ocean as a sacred place. That sentiment drives his work now with scientists, heads of government and business executives. “I want people to understand that the ocean is weak,” Wright says. “What we’re doing with the ocean right now is having huge consequences. The daily weather and the long-term climate are completely dependent on the ocean.”
For Wright, the establishment and enforcement of marine protected areas, such as the New Zealand Cook Islands Marine Park and the US Maritime Monument to the Papahānaumokuākea, are a victory to protect the ocean. So far only 7% of the ocean is protected, compared to 15% of the earth. “Although we have about 7% of the ocean protected in these parks or reserves, less than half of that is an area that does not allow fishing or coral fishing or taking in beautiful rocks,” Wright explained. “So we have a long, long and long way to go.”
Protected areas, predictive maps, and the demands of scientists certainly have an impact on corporate and policy decisions. Add to this the increasing global risk of climate risk and social responsibility. These incentives and the GIS tools needed to respond encourage leaders to implement new initiatives.
For example, shipping companies are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions designing more efficient containers, while the movement that drives the cause of sustainability reduces business spending. Industries like retail and manufacturing are being put in place principles of the circular economy where the products are to be recovered or recycled after the original use has been completed. They are aquaculture companies selection of major locations for responsible fish farming to help reduce overfishing, encourage the restoration of aquatic ecosystems, and restore endangered species.
Such efforts lead us to a vision of a sustainable ocean and therefore a sustainable planet. While Wright feels confident with so much advanced technology – “it’s the perfect time to make maps” – he’s not so sure if the work that scientists, governments and companies are doing will be enough or will deliver results soon.
‘The ocean is not too big to fail’
Concerned about increasing threats to the ocean, the United Nations has designated the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development from 2021-2030. “It’s like the Paris Ocean Climate Agreement,” Wright says. “For me, it’s the moon … this is a big boost to have something aimed at all of them (governments, universities, non-profit organizations).”
Some important ocean mapping projects are already in different stages of development and execution. For example, the 2030 seabed has an ambitious goal of mapping the entire ocean floor by 2030. The Biodiversity Importance Map shares habitat models for more than 2,200 endangered species in the United States, with AI predictor layers based on species viability, development plans, and environmental factors. And the Ocean Health Index annually assesses ocean health by examining the social, ecological, and economic benefits of advancing ocean policies.
These projects will help companies that are socially responsible (building sustainability solutions that match their business opportunities) while profiting from the ocean. Their work is often collected in complex, real-time data, stored and processed with GIS, and presented on smart maps and data visualizations with GIS. Location intelligence allows companies (especially the shipping, energy, logistics and fishing industries) to ask the following questions:
- Where would offshore wind turbines have the least impact on commercial fishing?
- Where should a transatlantic submarine communications cable go to avoid sand mining sites, rare deep-sea coral habitats, or sand mining sites necessary for restoration?
- Where are the right areas for boats to pass through the Arctic (now no longer covered in ice all year round) to minimize the impact on sensitive ecosystems?
As the world slowly emerges from the pandemic and enters the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, companies, scientists and policy makers know that people and the planet have the potential to make smart choices.
These opportunities will include comprehensive ocean data, crucial information mapping technologies, and how, when, and where to intervene. The line will make choices for sustainability over time. “It looks like the ocean isn’t too big to fail, unfortunately,” Wright says. “The good news is that the fix isn’t very big.”
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