The First Ever Ocean Census Is Revealed

The 10-year-in-the-making document is available for download, and includes amazing interactive maps about the appalling state of our oceans.

The first ever Census of Marine Life, which is exactly what it sounds like, will be presented today in London. A 10-year-in-the-making document, it is gigantic, and available for download. So abundant and varied is ocean life that "after all its work, the Census still could not reliably estimate the total number of species, the kinds of life, known and unknown, in the ocean. It could logically extrapolate to at least a million kinds of marine life that earn the rank of species and to tens or even hundreds of millions of kinds of microbes." Wow.

There's also an accompanying searchable database and some amazing interactive maps by National Geographic. One of them—"Past, Present, Future," pictured below—establishes a "baseline against which coming change can be measured." Which is important (and depressing) when you think about the sorry state of our oceans. (For further reading on that, check out this recent package from Time.)

At any rate, the Census site is super cool. You can do a data search here by scientific name, if you're in the field (or speak Latin), or by common name if you're like the rest of us. It takes some fiddling to figure out how to use it, but it's really pretty fascinating once you do.

Image via EdwardWHuang