The Census of Marine Life (CoML) initiative is an international research program aimed at assessing and explaining the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine organisms throughout the world's oceans. This ambitious goal is to be reached by stimulating well-coordinated, dedicated, regional research efforts that are based on initial projects that demonstrate efficient methods to census ocean habitats. Together these will provide significant new information on the patterns and processes of marine life on a global scale.
Three questions encapsulate the CoML: What did live in the oceans? What does live in the oceans? What will live in the oceans? The Future of Marine Animal Populations (FMAP) adds to the critical modeling and analysis components of all three aspects of CoML -- past, present, and future.
1) Past: models are needed to interpret and design sub-sampling of historical data. New HMAP information about historical oceans is a critical link between current field censuses and future prediction.
2) Present: it is important that modeling and analysis be integrated into research from the beginning so that the initial field sampling can be done in an optimal manner and so that design can be modified as work continues. In conjunction with this, synthetic models are needed to combine and understand the data collected.
3) Future: models effective for synthesis have potential for prediction. An understanding of the possible effects of changes in global climate or the fishing industry will help us to take effective management action.
Moreover, modeling can help define the limits of knowledge: what is known and how firmly, what may be unknown but knowable, and what is likely to remain unknowable. Thus, FMAP will make major contributions to the culminating report of the CoML in 2010.
FMAP grew out of a workshop held in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) in June 2002. Representatives of the all major elements of the Census of Marine Life participated in this initial event and continue to contribute as the vision of FMAP evolves into a working program. Funding from the Sloan Foundation is in place as of the spring of 2003.
FMAP focuses on five themes that will be developed into related but separate component projects. These include 1) Statistical Design, 2) Data Exchange and Model Interface, 3) Model Development, 4) Data Synthesis, and 5) Prediction.
FMAP will also contribute to the Census of Marine Life in several key ways besides prediction. Models are needed to design sampling programs and to synthesize data in order to understand what lived in the oceans in the past and what lives in the oceans today. These synthetic models can then be used to predict what will live in the oceans in the future. Finally, models are needed to help define the limits of knowledge: what is known and how firmly, what may be unknown but knowable, and what is likely to remain unknowable.