Related activities

Marine biodiversity and ecosystems

The marine environment supplies many ecosystems that support biodiversity in coastal and open ocean habitats. Marine ecosystems provide many resources that are beneficial to society and a significant proportion of the world’s population depends intimately on the oceans and coasts for survival and well-being. The pressure on marine ecosystems and the resources they provide is increasing as threats introduced by land-use change, overfishing, climate change, the invasion of non-native species and other impacts of anthropogenic activities affect biodiversity. As environmental conditions change, species need to evolve and adapt to these changing conditions. Healthy marine ecosystems are important for society since they provide services including food security, feed for livestock , raw materials for medicines, building materials from coral rock and sand, and natural defenses against hazards such as coastal erosion and inundation.

Ocean observations that monitor biodiversity and measure species distribution and density in marine ecosystems enable policy makers to respond to, protect and manage ecosystems that are under threat. Marine ecosystems are integrally linked to global climate and monitoring and studying these ecosystems allows scientists to better predict the impact of climate change on biodiversity and human populations.

Food security & feed for livestock

Fisheries and associated industries employ 38 million people directly and another 162 million are indirectly supported. Finfish and shellfish are the greatest source of animal protein, particularly in developing countries. In addition seaweeds are also very important commercially as they can be used in agriculture as feed for livestock or compost for farm land. Overfishing and unsustainable harvesting as well as deterioration of water quality is of particular concern and requires close monitoring and management.

Ocean observations are crucial for protecting ecosystems that support fisheries.

Ocean observations are crucial for protecting ecosystems that support fisheries.

Building Materials

Provisioning services from marine ecosystems include building materials from mangrove and coral reef areas. As with ensuring sustainable food sources, the extraction of such materials must be accomplished in a sustainable manner. In addition, chiton from the shells of invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs are used in agriculture as well as human and food supplements. Ocean observations helps to ensure the sustainable use of these ecosystem services.


Mangroves provide building materials and shoreline protection for many local communities.


Many coastal areas also depend on tourism for their economy. Pollution and habitat degradation endangers the livelihoods of those that rely upon tourists for their businesses. Ocean observations can help managers make informed decisions to protect local ecosystems, biodiversity and tourism.

Many coastal communities rely on ecosystems to support the tourism industry.

Many coastal communities rely on ecosystems to support the tourism industry.

Related GEO Societal Benefit Areas

Biodiversity and Ecosystem SustainabilityDisaster ResilienceFood Security and Sustainable AgriculturePublic Health SurveillanceWater Resources Management