When marine ecologists released the Ocean Health Index (OHI) for the first time in 2012, it was a majestically ambitious achievement. The index, born of a collaboration among dozens of scientists, economists and environmental managers at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the nonprofit organization Conservation International, was designed as a comprehensive framework for scientifically evaluating the health of ocean ecosystems, both worldwide and regionally. Drawing on more than a hundred databases, the index pulled together local measurements of biodiversity and ecological productivity with information about fishing, industrial use, carbon storage, tourism and other factors to score the health of open ocean and coastal regions between 0 and 100. (The global ocean earned a score of 60 in that first year, with regional ratings between 36 and 86.) The authors of the index hoped that such a standardized basis of comparison between and within regions would help with identifying and communicating the most effective measures for protecting the oceans and with guiding policymakers toward better decisions.
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