Aims and Scope
70% of Planet Earth is covered by water and the ocean is the largest ecosystem. Oceans host a priceless biodiversity which plays a crucial role in planetary biogeochemical cycles and marine food webs. Oceans provide humanity with half of the oxygen plus a myriad of goods and services, such as food, biochemical compounds, fossil fuels, transport routes and recreation environments. However, increasing demographic and economic growth are impacting marine ecosystems (e.g., fisheries, aquaculture, dissolved and solid wastes, shipping); social-economic issues intersecting the ecological status of the oceans and therefore represent important societal challenges to address.
Marine science is intensifying efforts towards the assessment of ‘Ocean Health’ (OH), which should be (i) routed on scientific approaches that quantitatively characterize target biological, physical, economic and social elements, and (ii) devoted to guide decision-makers towards the sustainable use of the oceans.
The new-generation OH assessment requires the development of advanced and integrated ‘augmented observatories’ pertaining to monitoring, data-interpretation and managing of marine ecosystems and, ultimately, modelling and predicting the conditions of future oceans.
‘Augmented observatories’ (G7 Turin Declaration) must be based on improved acquisition of biological information at eco-system level by exploiting both optical (from in-lab microscopy to in-situ video acquisition) and -omics technologies (i.e., meta-genomics, meta-transcriptomics, meta-barcoding, single-cell genomics).
Augmented observatories established in the frame of ongoing monitoring programs, such as Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, will provide (i) an historical scientific background and (ii) the opportunity to develop synergies among long term observatories.