Our oceans are in trouble - the sea level is increasing, the ambient temperature is increasing, the salinity and acidity is changing, they are overfished, and ultimately, their ability to act as massive carbon sinks is vanishing. If only there was real-time accurate data on the state of our oceans, save for the pioneering work of researchers and activists, we may be able to pinpoint problem areas before they die completely off.
Rejoice! A fundamental shift in data collection is about to occur - the Argo Program has just completed laying out their network of 3,000 robotic sensors! The robotic floats are dispersed internationally in the oceans and will drift over a period of 10 days, submerging themselves at a depth of 1000m and finally to 2000m before they ascend and transmit their data to a satellite, after which they will repeat the process. It reminds me a bit of the GPS sensors that were attached to real white sharks by Microwave Telemetry to provide real-time data for the Discovery Channel’s SharkRunners game. Ultimately, the program hopes to gather over 100,000 data transmissions annually and report on the climate state of the oceans!
While these robots won’t directly fix the problems our oceans are facing, they should help to kickstart diagnosis and raise public awareness. One potential fix is the establishment of comprehensive marine reserves all over the world, protecting vulnerable species and habitats, enhancing fisheries beyond the reserve boundaries, and buffering the worst impacts of climate change. Marine reserves are the single most powerful tool available for arresting and reversing the decline of our oceans and are equally applicable to the high seas as they are to coastal waters. The oceans have immense powers of regeneration and wherever in the world marine reserves have been established marine life is flourishing.
To educate yourself on the species footprint of the oceans, please take the following quiz by worldwatch.org.