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Understanding oceans

  • Published
    12th Feb, 2022
Context

Recently UNESCO’s One Ocean Summit held at Brest, France.

Background

New announcement:

  • UNESCO has announced that at least 80% of the seabed will be mapped by 2030, compared to 20% currently, with the support of its Member States and the private sector.

A goal with an action plan

  • UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) experts have already assessed the resources needed to achieve the target of at least 80% mapping by 2030.
  • They consist of three axes:
  • The mobilization of a fleet of 50 vessels specially dedicated to seabed mapping.
  • Intensifying the use of sonar on autonomous vessels.
  • The transmission by governments and corporations of cartographic data they have already archived.
  • According to IOC experts, the total funding requirement for the project stands at $5 billion, i.e., an average of $625 million per year by 2030.

UNESCO and the ocean

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the UN agency in charge of ocean sciences.
  • Founded in 1960, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), brings together 150 countries, coordinates global programmes such as ocean mapping, ocean health monitoring and tsunami risk prevention, as well as numerous scientific research projects.
  • The agency is also the custodian of unique ocean places, through 232 marine biosphere reserves and 50 marine World Heritage sites of outstanding universal value.
  • UNESCO is leading the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development (2021 to 2030), which this year will see the organization of several major international summits that, will help to amplify the collective mobilization in this field.

Why is the study of the ocean floor important?

  • The knowledge of bathymetry (the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor) is instrumental in understanding several natural phenomena, including ocean circulation, tides, and biological hotspots.
  • It also provides key inputs for navigation, forecasting tsunamis, exploration for oil and gas projects, building offshore wind turbines, fishing resources, and for laying cables and pipelines.
  • This data becomes highly valuable during disaster situations.
  • Importantly, the maps would also ensure a better understanding of climate change, since floor features including canyons and underwater volcanoes influence phenomena such as the vertical mixing of ocean water, and ocean currents.
  • Climate change has impacted the flow of these currents, and more knowledge about them would help scientists create models forecasting the future behaviour of the climate, including sea-level rise.
  • A map of the entire global ocean floor would also help further achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
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