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Oceanography in the Next Decade: Building New Partnerships
scientists. Many of these problems arise from the need to accommodate multiple uses of the ocean and from the ever-increasing concentration of the U.S. population near our coasts. Oceanographic research is important to many of the nation's social concerns, including the following:
Global Change. The ocean is key to regulating both natural and human-induced changes in the planet. The role of ocean circulation and the coupling of the ocean and atmosphere are basic to understanding Earth's changing climate. Regional events such as El Niño and ocean margin and equatorial upwelling influence climate on both seasonal and longer time scales. Earth's population is now large enough to alter the chemical composition of the ocean and atmosphere and to impact the biological composition of Earth.
Biodiversity. The ocean comprises a large portion of Earth's biosphere. It hosts a vast diversity of flora and fauna that are critical to Earth's biogeochemical cycles and that serve as an important source of food and pharmaceuticals. In addition to the exciting discoveries of previously unknown biota near hydrothermal vents, many deep-ocean organisms have evolved under relatively stable conditions. Their unique physiologies and biochemistries have not yet been explored adequately, and methods for sampling the more fragile of these species have been developed only in the past decade. Human influence on marine biota has increased dramatically, threatening the stability of coastal ecosystems. Some species have been overharvested; others have been transported inadvertently to areas where they are not indigenous, sometimes resulting in deleterious effects on native species. Still other species are being cultivated commercially, and aquaculture facilities along coastlines are becoming commonplace in some countries. A better understanding of the ecology of marine organisms is urgently needed to prevent irreversible damage to this living resource.
Environmental Quality. Waste disposed of in coastal areas has reached the open ocean, with broad ramifications for living resources. This problem is compounded because many marine species harvested for commercial and recreational purposes spend a portion of their lives in coastal waters and estuaries. Thus, local pollution can have far-reaching effects.
Economic Competitiveness. Economic prosperity in a global marketplace depends increasingly on technical and scientific applications. There is concern about the ability of the United