Photo via kevwhelan via Flickr CC
The common estimate is that humans have explored only 95% of the world's oceans. Considering they cover about 75% of the planet's surface and hold vast amounts of flora and fauna, yet is incredibly fragile and suffering terribly from abuse by humans and changes in the chemistry of our atmosphere, it's no wonder that researchers want to collect as much data as possible into one place so that we can better understand this watery resource. Australia - home of such marine treasures as the Great Barrier Reef - appreciates the importance of this task and has poured $9 million into a new high-tech marine information system. It is part of a $100 million national marine observation network, and it will be invaluable to scientists.
Blue Living Ideas reports, "The new system will record information about wind speed, ocean currents, water temperature and salinity and make it available on the Internet for anyone who needs it... It includes a network of radars, underwater gliders and moorings that will bring together information that anglers, scientists, weather forecasters and firefighters have often worked independently to gather. If all goes as planned, the new system will provide a better idea of the effects of climate change and earlier warnings about natural disasters."
According to ABC news, "John Middleton from Flinders University says the new system is an important advance. 'No other country has taken this model of having a science plan developed by the scientists to advise management on what it should be doing. They'll be extremely useful for looking at desalination plants. If you have brine outfalls at the head of the Gulf, what does that mean? It will give us an independent capacity outside of BHP and engineering consultants.'"
Australia has been experiencing extreme droughts for years now, and desalination plants are a significant source of fresh water in several areas of the country. The impacts of desalination plants - which are energy intensive and can present an environmental hazard to marine life - must be analyzed and monitored. This information network can be one tool to help do that, among many other things.
The system will even utilize the assistance of endangered sea lions, strapping depth and temperature sensors to them to understand the conditions of where they swim on a daily basis.
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More on Australia's Marine Life
Oceans of Change: Protecting the Planet's Life Support System
UN Agreement Protects Seven Migratory Shark Species, But Australia Opts Out (Partially)
UPDATED: Coal-Carrying Ship Wrecked on Barrier Reef - Captain and Crew Think It's No Big Deal