From the many millions of people who count on ocean fisheries for their food and livelihoods, to the cultural and spiritual connections people have with marine species, to the uncounted lives saved by intact coral reefs during the 2004 Asian tsunami, people all over the world depend upon healthy oceans. But how healthy are our oceans? A newly developed measurement tool, the Ocean Health Index, answers that question for every coastal country in the world. The Index provides a uniform way with which to measure the health of ocean ecosystems around the world. The Index provides an important tool for advancing comprehensive ocean policy.
The Ocean Health Index evaluates the condition of marine ecosystems according to 10 human goals, which represent the key ecological, social, and economic benefits that a healthy ocean provides. The framework for the Ocean Health Index was first published in the journal Nature in August 2012. Researchers found that global oceans have an overall score of 60 out of 100 with a large variation between regions. Current activities involve annual recalculation of the global scores, regional applications at national and sub-national scales, support of other governments and NGOs developing regional applications of the Index, and a software toolbox to allow easy calculation and exploration of the Index and its results.
The Index is a collaborative effort, made possible through contributions from more than 65 scientists/ocean experts and partnerships between organizations including the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Sea Around Us, Conservation International, National Geographic, and the New England Aquarium.
Ben Halpern is the Director of NCEAS and lead scientist for Ocean Health Index. Over the past 10 years, ongoing synthesis research and collaborations at NCEAS on ecosystem-based management and mapping global impacts of marine systems have laid the foundation for Halpern’s work on the OHI. Several of the scientific and technical OHI team members reside at NCEAS and contribute to many of the Center's activities.
An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean
Benjamin S. Halpern, Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Karen L. McLeod, Jameal F. Samhouri, et al. Nature, (30 August 2012) DOI: 10.1038/nature11397
University of California, Santa Barbara press release
Photo Credit: Courtesy of NOAA