Fri 15 February 2008
We did it!
As some of you may know in 2005 through 2006, I was part of a research team , led by Ben Halpern at NCEAS, developing a global model of human impacts on the marine ecosystem. We created or compiled 17 high-resolution global datasets of human-induced threats (land-based pollutants, fishing, shipping, climate change, etc.) and 20 ocean habitat datasets. These were combined to create an impact index which models the cumulative level of human-induced stress on our oceans.
The results were published today in Science magazine and presented yesterday at the AAAS Annual Meeting. To summarize, we found that the entire ocean is affected and 40% is heavily impacted. It is not all bad news as there are many areas of relatively low impact which could provide examples for ecosystem restoration and opportunities for conservation. The global map is the first of its kind and will help clarify and quantify our cumulative impacts on the ocean and allow us to focus efforts geographically. The model is not perfect and can't really be used to make decisions at a very localized scale but, given the available globally-consistent, reasonably-high-resolution data for all the various ocean threats and habitats, this is the best effort to date. The model itself is relatively simple with a very clear methodology which will allow scientists to tweak the parameters and add better data as it becomes available. For those of you interested in the GIS modeling end, NCEAS has a great summary of the data used in the model. Most of the data are available as raster data products or KML.
The media has picked up on the story with NPR, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today and National Geographic covering it (to name a few). I especially recommend the NPR site as it has a great animation and an audio segment.
So congratulations to everyone who made this happen!
 Benjamin S. Halpern, Shaun Walbridge, Kimberly A. Selkoe, Carrie V. Kappel, Fiorenza Micheli, Caterina D'Agrosa, John F. Bruno, Kenneth S. Casey, Colin Ebert, Helen E. Fox, Rod Fujita, Dennis Heinemann, Hunter S. Lenihan, Elizabeth M.P. Madin, Matthew T. Perry, Elizabeth R. Selig, Mark Spalding, Robert Steneck, Reg Watson (2008). A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science, vol. 319
Some additional articles: