the atmosphere are basic to understanding Earth's changing climate. Regional events such as El Niño and ocean margin and equatorial upwelling influence climate on both seasonal and longer time scales. The world's population is now large enough to alter the chemical composition of the ocean and atmosphere and to impact the biological composition of Earth.
Biodiversity. The oceans comprise a large portion of Earth's biosphere and support a vast diversity of flora and fauna that are critical to Earth's biogeochemical cycles and serve as an important source of food and pharmaceuticals. In addition to the exciting discoveries of previously unknown biota near hydrothermal vents, many deep-ocean organisms have evolved under relatively stable conditions. Their unique physiologies and biochemistries have not yet been explored adequately, and methods for sampling the more fragile of these species have been developed only in the past decade. Human influence on marine biota has increased dramatically, threatening the stability of coastal ecosystems. Some species have been overharvested; others have been transported inadvertently to areas where they are not indigenous, sometimes resulting in deleterious effects on native species. Still other species are being cultivated commercially, and aquaculture facilities along coastlines are becoming commonplace in some countries. A better understanding of the ecology of marine organisms is urgently needed to prevent irreversible damage to this living resource.
Environmental Quality. Waste disposed in coastal areas has reached the open ocean, with broad ramifications for living resources. This problem is compounded because many marine species harvested for commercial and recreational purposes spend a portion of their lives in coastal waters and estuaries. Thus, local pollution can have far-reaching effects.
Economic Competitiveness. Economic prosperity in a global marketplace depends increasingly on technical and scientific applications. There is concern about the ability of the United States to compete with Europe and Asia. Basic and applied research in marine science and engineering is necessary to achieve and maintain a competitive position in a host of fields, including marine biotechnology, aquaculture, hydrocarbon and mineral exploration and production, maritime transportation, fisheries, treatment and disposal of waste, and freshwater extraction.
National Security. Unprecedented world political changes are redefining national defense interests and altering research and development priorities. Knowledge of the ocean, especially the