A Global Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory Becomes a Reality

The ocean is a central part of Earth’s climate system. For example, it regulates temperatures and surface–atmosphere exchanges of gases around the planet. Yet the ocean is chronically undersampled, leaving vast gaps in our knowledge of its behavior. This lack of data presents a fundamental barrier to understanding, predicting, managing, and adapting to ongoing changes in ocean physics, chemistry, and biology. These changes, among others, include warming of the ocean, declining oxygen content, and shifting dynamics in ocean carbon content, which have direct and indirect effects on open-ocean, nearshore, and even terrestrial ecosystems. These effects remain only loosely constrained but appear to be predominantly negative for life in the water—from keystone species like coral and krill to large mammals like whales and walruses—and on land by way of degraded fisheries, for example.

The need to reduce gaps in global ocean observing is becoming increasingly urgent as we look to advance the science upon which mitigation and adaptation approaches are based. To meet this observing challenge, scientists have been developing a global array of hundreds of ocean-profiling floats that expands on existing observing resources. The floats, equipped with biogeochemical (BGC) sensors, constitute the BGC-Argo system, which will transform our ability to observe the ocean. Beyond serving needs for basic research, science advances and real-time observations from BGC-Argo will also inform a diverse range of stakeholders and facilitate solutions for sustainable ocean management.

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