Click for next page ( 27


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 26
2 Justification for a New Ocean Exploration Program The ocean supports us whether we live in land-locked or coastal communities in myriad ways. Living resources provide food, and explora- tion of marine biological and chemical diversity has led to the discovery of drugs to treat cancer and infections. Oil and natural gas extracted from the oceans have already been used to meet much of the energy needs of our societies. With the application of new technology to locate, extract, and exploit potential ocean resources, such as methane hydrates, renewable ocean energy, and seafloor minerals, the value of the oceans to society will continue to expand. Improved understanding of the oceans is necessary to better manage our living marine resources. The oceans provide a very large portion of Earth's food supply (Figure 2.1; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 19981. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated capture fisheries (primarily marine) produced 83 million metric tons of fish in 2001. Approximately 16 kg (or 36 pounds) of fish per person on Earth were either captured or produced in that year. Appropriate fisheries management depends a great deal on knowledge of fish stocks, distribution, and life histories. Additional information about ocean circulation patterns, chemistry, seafloor terrain and fish distributions, for instance, should assist attempts to improve fisheries management. Marine organisms also supply a host of unique compounds for medical uses. The ancient horseshoe crab (Limu/us polyphemus) supplies blood used in common toxin-screening tests, and its eyes continue to provide researchers with a model of how vision works. The nerve cells of the long- finned squid (Lo/igo pealed) include "giant axons" that are used by neuro- biologists as an analogue to understand mammalian neurobiology. These cells are approximately 100 times the diameter of a mammal axon, allowing experimentation and analysis that would otherwise be exceedingly difficult or impossible. Discodermo/ide, a compound extracted from marine sponges, 26

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 o 27 Aquaculture Capture fisheries 1950 1954 1958 1962 1966 1970 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998 FIGURE 2.1A World capture fisheries and aquaculture production (used with permission from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Note: Aquaculture quantities prior to 1984 are estimates. 100 {_ cot ~0 A .o ~ 60 = ~ . _ ~ Q .0 ~= 40 Cd N ~ O ~ ~0 S (a . _ IL 80 20 Food Feed Population Per capita supply 1950 1954 1958 1962 1966 1970 1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998 4 o _` o . _ . _ Q o . _ Cd Q o AL FIGURE 2.1 B World fish utilization and supply, excluding China (used with permission from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

OCR for page 26
28 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS has been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in laboratory tests. The discovery of microorganisms within deep ocean sediments that could inhibit cancer cell growth has opened a door to the search for new compounds for use in medicine (Figure 2.2) (Mincer et al., 2002; Feling et al., 20031. These examples are among the hundreds of uses for marine organisms and com- pounds. Vast numbers of organisms remain to be discovered, and they will yield additional important benefits for humankind. Responsible exploita- tion of the genetic diversity of life in the ocean, including new and existing fisheries, requires a thorough understanding of those resources and their variability over time. As the human population expands, so will the need for energy and mineral resources. In 2002, the coastal zones of the United States provided 25 percent of the country's natural gas production and 30 percent of the U.S. oil production (Minerals Management Service, 20031. The Minerals FIGURE 2.2 Twelve different strains of the microbial group Salinospora. These newly discovered microorganisms, which inhabit the mud at the bottom of the sea, produce new antibiotics and anticancer agents that are believed to be a completely new source of new drugs (used with permission from W. Fenical).

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM Management Service estimates the majority of undiscovered gas and oil is in coastal areas albeit in deeper and deeper water on the continental slope. The oceans sustain a large portion of Earth's biodiversity in complex food webs; microbial life; extreme, deep habitats including within the sea- floor, and hydrothermal vents; and dynamic coastal environments. Indeed, the midwater environment of oceans harbor an ecosystem whose biomass is larger than that of the terrestrial biota. The complex biological systems both rely on and support the global cycling of carbon and nutrients, and they are estimated to sustain half of all carbon-based life on this planet (Figure 2.3; Field et al., 1 9981. 29 FIGURE 2.3 Global annual net primary productivity (in grams of carbon [C] per square meter per year) for the biosphere, calculated from the integrated Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach-Vertically Generalized Production Model. The spatial resolution of the calculations is 1 x 1 for land and 1/6 x 1/6 for the oceans. Input data for ocean color from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner sensor are averages from 1978 to 1983. The land vegetation index from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer sensors is the average from 1982 to 1990. Global net primary productivity is 105 picograms of C per year (105 x 1015 g of C per year), with 46 percent contributed by the oceans and 54 percent contributed by the land. (Reprinted with permission from Field et al., 1998. Copyright 1998 American Association for the Advancement of Science; http://www.sciencemag.org.)

OCR for page 26
30 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS Appreciation for the role of the oceans in global climate patterns and change continues to grow (Sutton and Allen, 1 997; Rahmstorf, 20021. The oceans regulate climate by absorbing solar energy and redistributing it via global circulation patterns resulting in identifiable systems of climate and weather. Our knowledge of interannual climate variations has improved to the point that scientists are now be able to forecast El Nino climate distur- bances months in advance (Chen, 20011. With all of the benefits the oceans provide come potentially harmful- sometimes disastrous hazards to human health. Tsunamis, for example, are legendary in their power to devastate coastal communities (e.g., Satake et al., 19951. In the United States, a single hurricane can cause billions of dollars of damage (Figure 2.~; Federal Emergency Management Agency, FIGURE 2.4 Damage from Hurricane Andrew that occurred in Florida on August 24, 1992. Many houses, businesses, and personal effects suffered extensive damage from one of the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded in the United States. One million people were evacuated, and 54 died in this hurricane.

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM 2003), and coastal erosion threatens to destroy 25 percent of dwellings within 150 m of the coast (Heinz Center, 20021. Major earthquake faults offshore coastal states in the western United States are among the most potentially hazardous in the world given the concentrations in population and economic productivity. Although more difficultto estimate in monetary terms, water pollution and marine habitat degradation decrease the aesthetic value and the biotic richness of our coastal waters. Habitat degradation also threatens human health: viruses, bacteria, and infectious diseases that can be transmitted to human populations contaminate coastal waters (National Research Council, 19991. Finding: The oceans play a critical role in the maintenance of the ecosystems of the Earth. Resources contained in the oceans currently supply much of the world's food and fuel supply, and maintain global climate patterns. The oceans harbor as yet undiscovered organisms- new searches for life continue to discover previously unknown organ- isms. Only a portion of the potential of the oceans has been tapped. Recommendation: As was true when the International Decade of Ocean Exploration (1971-1980) was proposed and supported, ocean exploration remains a necessary endeavor to identify and fully describe the resources the oceans contain and uncover processes with far- ranging implications for the study of Earth as a whole. The pace at which we discover living and nonliving resources and improve our understanding of how the oceans respond to chemical, biological, and physical changes must increase. INTERDISCIPLINARY EXPLORATION IS NEEDED Every time a scientist happens upon some completely unexpected dis- covery in the ocean, it is a reminder of how little is known about this environment that is so critically important to the sustainability of the planet. We now recognize that different facets of the ocean small-scale geological, biological, and genetic diversity; chemical, geophysical, and physical oceanographic properties interact in complex ways, and our understand- ing of the ocean requires examination as a whole system. It is difficult to predict what discoveries are still to come, but it is clear that ocean explora- tion will improve the accuracy of our predictions of global climate change, produce new products that will benefit humanity, inform policy choices, and allow better stewardship of the oceans and the planet. To reach this 31

OCR for page 26
32 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS potential, ocean research should encourage collaboration between researchers from varied disciplines. Finding: Currently ocean science funding in the United States is pre- dominantly awarded to research in specific disciplines, such as bio- logical, physical or chemical oceanography. Proposals for inter- disciplinary work are hampered by a funding bureaucracy that is also discipline-based. Ocean exploration is an integrative activity that will encourage and support interdisciplinary efforts that seek to discover new contributions to the marine sciences. ACCESS TO NEW REGIONS IS NEEDED Successful marine science proposals habitually pursue information about regions, areas, and phenomena that have been described previously. For instance, repeated visits to unique sites, such as the hydrothermal vents of the spreading seafloor ridges, have allowed repeated sampling of both the vent systems and sites along the cruise track. Although the data sets have improved our understanding of ocean processes and dynamics, this "yo-yo" phenomenon is the result of selective funding for research proposals that build on established data sets and access vessels already scheduled- not exploratory investigations of new systems. Similar data collected out- side of these focused study areas are extremely rare. The current ocean research support framework does not favor such exploratory proposals. Highlighting this emphasis on previously-visited regions is the compila- tion of requests for access to the U.S. fleet of research vessels filed with the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. A summary of all vessel requests from 1998 through those filed for 2008 shows a strong emphasis on the coastal regions, with large tracts of the open ocean, par- ticularly the southern hemisphere, largely uninvestigated (Figure 2.5A). In fact, the majority of the vessel requests for the southern hemisphere have yet to receive research funding, and are proposed for 2004 and beyond few U.S. research cruises have been conducted in those regions (Figure 2.5B). Of the funded cruises, even fewer have been equipped with Alvin or a remotely operated vehicle (Figure 2.5C). Vast portions of the oceans have not been systematically examined for geochemical or biological characteristics. Ground-breaking discoveries, such as hydrothermal vents, fueled intensive investigations of those regions, but it did not lead to systematic, large-scale investigations of new regions. (e.g., the Ridge 2000 program [Pennsylvania State University, 200011. As is

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM 1 80W 1 35W 90W 45W 0 45E 90E 1 35E 1 80E 80N )~) 60N 40N 20N oo 80S ,~ FIGURE 2.5A FIGURE 2.5 (A) All vessel requests for 1998-2008 showing a strong emphasis on the coastal regions, with large tracts of the open ocean, particularly the southern hemisphere, largely uninvestigated. (B) The number of research cruises that actually have been funded (1998-2003). (C) Funded research cruises that were equipped with Alvin or a remotely operated vehicle. (Data obtained from the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System.) 33

OCR for page 26
34 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS 80N 60N 40N 20N on 20S 40S 60S 80S 1 80W 1 35W 90W 45W 0 45E 90E 1 35E 1 80E FIGURE 2.5B being shown by an Australian-New Zealand expedition (National Oceans Office, 2003), systematic biological exploration in even a small portion of the ocean can provide a rich collection of new organisms. This recent effort explored deep sea habitats of the seamounts and abyssal plains and has identified new species and improved our understanding of the distributions of previously-identified organisms. This one month journey collected more than 100 previously unidentified fish species and up to 300 new species of

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM 1 80W 1 35W 90W odor Balm ~ HI L 1 ~ ~~ ; ^~ ~ ~ ~ . . ~~d ~~ . ~~ 2~~~ ~ , .... 45W 0 45E . 90E 1 35E 1 80E 1~ 11 1 1 S ?~"~.~ I a: .~ ., ~ - ~~ ~ ..l f He' r~: _ ' ~ ~ ~~ ' ~ ~ l~ 1 , ~ Q~ ~~ 1. _ _ _ . ~ ~~_~ 60N 40N 20N on 20S 40S 60S 80S f -6 my' . ~ ~ l TV 4\ it' 2''~ :::: ~~ _ 1~ 1 - ~ v ~ r - 1 W7 1 ~ FIGURE 2.5C 35 il Invertebrates (Figure 2.6; National Oceans Office, 2003~. This type of systematic, organized exploration is not currently under way in the United States and highlights the types of exciting discoveries that the oceans still hold. A very recent, but limited, example of such an exploratory effort by the U n ited States has been i n itiated by the Department of Energy to i nvesti- gate the genomic structures of all organisms within an oceanic ecosystem (Whitfield, 2003~. Although the Sargasso Sea is thought to exhibit limited

OCR for page 26
36 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS FIGURE 2.6 This is a member of the lantern shark family (Dalatiidae), which belongs to a new species recently recognized but yet to be described, was discovered off the coast of New Zealand in May 2003 (used with permission from the National Oceans Office [Aus], the Ministry of Fisheries [NZ], CSIRO [Aus], and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research [NZ]). They are small sharks that range in size from 20 to 80 cm long, and they get their name from the dark patches on the undersides of the belly and tail, which are light organs. The light is made using chemicals to hide the shark's silhouette from predators beneath it. biodiversity and a simple ecosystem (Holder, 2003), it is anticipated that this work may reveal new pathways of carbon sequestration and hydrogen generation (Whitfield, 20031. In addition to the regional needs for exploration, ocean research that investigates changes over time is limited. Exploring the fourth dimension- time has typically not received sufficient attention. Expeditions to new areas for short periods can provide "snapshots" of the state of the ocean, but they are inadequate for explaining change or transient events, many of which pose considerable hazard to humans and our structures. Examples include phenomena such as El Nino, rapid climate change, volcanic erup- tions, and earthquakes (National Research Council, 20011.

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM Finding: The very nature of scientific investigation leads oceanographers to seek out information to verify hypotheses and confirm earlier find- ings. The infrastructure and support needed for oceanographic work is expensive, limited, and highly scheduled to ensure efficiency in the pursuit of knowledge about the oceans. As a result, much of the oceanographic research currently conducted re-investigates previously visited locations, limiting access to new regions and restricting long- term data collection. Recommendation: Oceanographic research should encourage scientifically-rigorous, systematic investigations of new sites in the oceans. Exploration through time should be included in oceanographic research. UNIQUE APPLICATIONS OF NEW CAPABILITIES The development and adoption of technology and rapid advancement of data processing and storage have been keys in the advancement of ocean science. Inevitably, chance discoveries enabled by new technology have identified useful concepts (Box 2.1 ). The development of a scalar magne- tometer was used in the discovery of plate tectonics and deep-towed vehicles and submersibles led to the discovery of life forms that have chemo- synthetic metabolic pathways that are independent of photosynthesis. Exciting new technologies allow access to regions, and on geographical scales, that the previous generation of oceanographers would not have dreamt possible. Satellites provide a platform for both remote sensing equipment capable of measuring such things as global ocean temperature, and can act as relay stations for real-time data downloading from oceano- graphic systems around the globe. . . .. it to Increased computer storage enables researchers to compile and store enormous datasets that were previously unimaginable and allow for rabid mathematical and Graphical analysis of data. The great leaps in ocean technology over the past 7() years from remotely operated vehicles to the satellite-based remote sensing systems- now provide access to new locations and should be capitalized on to mp rove our knowledge of the oceans. Chapter 6 describes many of the existing and new technologies that support ocean research. The data collected during exploration provide a legacy for research, commerce, education, and regulation. Ocean explorers have an obligation to collect data systematically and to pass their observations along quickly for use by others in ways that could be entirely unforeseen. Freedom of cat . , . ~ 37

OCR for page 26
38 EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS The continental margins contain the Earth's largest remaining source of fossil fuel in the form of methane hydrates. Some 5 to 25 percent of this methane is consumed by microbes in the shallow surface sediments. However, because the habitats generally are anaerobic (lacking free oxygen), it has long been a puzzle how those organisms oxidize methane to provide energy for their life functions. Using samples collected by a remotely operated vehicle from methane seeps near Eel River, California, scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Pennsylvania State University, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution obtained the first direct identification of the Archaea that consume methane near anoxic methane seeps and hydrates. The by-products of this reaction are free hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The process involves a novel symbiotic relationship with sulfate-reducing bacteria that maintain a low enough partial pressure of hydrogen to keep the methane reaction energetically favorable. What is intriguing about this chance discovery is the possibility that the organic process could be used to "mine" deep-sea deposits of methane hydrate, which could be supplied to clean- burning fuel cells in the form of free hydrogen. The process would not exacerbate global warming because the carbon dioxide would remain in the deep sea. access to data is essential for fostering innovation and the conversion of the investment into scientific discoveries, commercial products, and the devel- opment of sound ocean policy. Sampling procedures should be standard- ized to ensure quality control, and data should be publicly available, insofar as possible, in real time. Although commercial investment can require restrictions to protect proprietary data and to foster development of dis- coveries, such cases should be regarded as exceptions. There are aspects, regions, and dimensions of the world's oceans that arguably will not advance in our understanding without a new systematic, coordinated exploration program for collecting the fundamental data from which unifying, predictive theories can emerge. Is there a paradigm that will explain the first-order patterns of biomass or biodiversity in the deep sea based on variations in temperature, nutrient availability, hydrothermal circulation, or other environmental factors? Researchers cannot begin to understand this question now because there are no systematic data sets that allow comparison of different regions. Because of their inaccessibility some regions have been overlooked in the earlier phases of exploration. Little is known of tectonic history or circulation patterns in the Arctic Ocean, for example. Because of the difficulty in mounting expeditions to the Arctic, conducting exploratory research (for example, by collecting systematic

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM observations broadly in all scientific dimensions that can be practically accommodated) is the most cost-effective way to advance our understand- ing of this region that is so sensitive to climate change. . Finding: Rapid progress in ocean sampling devices now allows researchers access to new environments, including the extremes of hydrothermal systems, the seafloor, and waters beneath the ice of the Arctic Ocean. The potential of new technology in satellites, under- water equipment, remote sensing technology, and observing systems has not yet been met. Recommendation: An ocean exploration program should seek to access and encourage new developments in ocean technology. A NEW PROGRAM OF OCEAN EXPLORATION IS NECESSARY Systematic, or coordinated, ocean exploration is not a current practice within the United States. New discoveries about the oceans are often the result of serendipitous circumstances, for instance, the inadvertent discovery of entirely new ecosystems at hydrothermal vents. Exciting discoveries about the oceans occur frequently, but the rate could be greatly enhanced by pursuing new research topics in new regions of the oceans. A limited national ocean exploration effort has recently begun and is operated through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since 2001, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration has sought to "...explore and better understand our oceans. The office supports expeditions, exploration projects, and a number of related field campaigns for the purpose of discovery and documentation of ocean voyages" (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2003a). It is the committee's sense that this fledgling national effort is too limited in scope. The education and outreach efforts are laudable, and the office has made the important step of committing 10 percent of their budget to those activities. However, uncertainty in the annual budgeting process makes long-term planning difficult, and the funding levels to date hover at $14 million. As no future vision for the program has yet been released it is difficult for this committee to determine whether this young program can be adapted to fill the role outlined in this report, but the program has not capitalized on much of the scientific expertise in the United States and relies on heavily leveraging funds and assets against other oceanographic research programs. 39

OCR for page 26
do EXPLORATION OF THE SEAS Currently the pursuit of ocean data is largely an independent, researcher- driven effort with only scattered attempts at public education. As a largely publicly-funded endeavor, oceanographers have a responsibility to com- municate their findings clearly not only to the funding agencies, but to the broader public. Large numbers of people live near oceans and many depend on it for their sustenance or livelihood, but few understand the complexity of the ocean ecosystem or its importance to society. Although efforts to educate the public in both formal and informal settings are increasing through programs such as the National Science Foundation's Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence program, outreach and education in the marine sciences is largely uncoordinated. Few members of the public appreciate the role the oceans play in our lives, and the relationship between the oceans, atmosphere, and land. Good public policy demands that the public engage in the excitement of ocean research, exploit public interest through education about the wealth and limitations of the ocean, and pro- mote citizen and decision-makers understanding about ocean issues and policy. Chapter 7 discusses some of the outreach and education possibili- ties i n more detai 1. Finding: Oceans provide food, energy and mineral resources, products capable of treating human disease, and affect climate and global responses to changes in climate. A new large-scale program devoted to ocean exploration is necessary to: coordinate efforts in ocean discovery and capitalize on the wide array of available data; provide new resources and facilities for access by researchers; establish support for and promote interdisciplinary approaches to ocean investigations; develop outreach and public education tools to increase public awareness and understanding of the oceans; discover the living and nonliving resources of the oceans; and provide a multidisciplinary archive of ocean data to serve as a source of basic data upon which to develop hypotheses for further investigation. Recommendation: A coordinated, broadly-based ocean exploration effort that meets the highest standards of scientific excellence should be aggressively pursued. An ocean exploration program should be

OCR for page 26
JUSTIFICATION FOR A NEW OCEAN EXPLORATION PROGRAM initiated and exhibit the following characteristics, which can also be used to gauge its ultimate success: The program should be global and multidisciplinary. The program must receive international support. The program should consider all three spatial dimensions as well as time. The program should seek to discover new living and nonliving resources in the ocean. The program should include developments of new tools, probes, sensors, and systems for multidisciplinary ocean exploration. The program should reach out to increase literacy pertaining to ocean science and management issues for learners of all ages to maximize the impact for research, commercial, regulatory, and educational benefits. The program should standardize sampling, data management, and dissemination. ~1