While the vast majority of the ocean remains unknown, recent discoveries give us new insights on coral reefs and sea life. This month, scientists announced that they have mapped the largest coral reef off America’s Atlantic coast, covering 6.4 million acres—an area larger than Vermont. Elsewhere in the sea, researchers have announced the discovery four new octopus species in the waters off Costa Rica.
The coral reef findings, published in the scientific journal Geomatics, describe an underwater seascape of cold-water coral mounds offshore the southeast United States coast, an area recognized as the largest deep-sea coral reef habitat discovered to date. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the discovery provides us with more information of how populations of corals and other deep-sea species may be related across geographically separated locales, offering insight into the resiliency of these populations. “This is important for predicting the impacts of human activities on coral communities and for developing solid plans for their protection,” NOAA reports.
"This strategic multiyear and multi-agency effort to systematically map and characterize the stunning coral ecosystem right on the doorstep of the U.S. East Coast is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we pool resources and focus on exploring the approximately 50% of U.S. marine waters that are still unmapped," says Derek Sowers, mapping operations manager for the Ocean Exploration Trust and lead author of the study. "Approximately 75% of the global ocean is still unmapped in any kind of detail, but many organizations are working to change that. This study provides a methodology aimed at interpreting mapping data over large ocean regions for insights into seafloor habitats and advancing standardized approaches to classifying them to support ecosystem-based management and conservation efforts."
Other recent findings have also shed some light on ocean life and Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity. In a 100-square-mile-sized area off Costa Rica, researchers recently discovered members of an entirely new, yet-to-be-named octopus species, nicknamed the “Dorado octopus,” after the initial location of its discovery, in addition to three more new deep-sea octopus species.
Standards Support Maritime Expeditions
Did you know that there are a number of standards that support maritime and deep-sea expeditions?
As an example, SAE International provides an overview of environmental considerations relevant to the design, development, and testing of marine craft, including advanced surface craft and submersibles. A relevant standard, SAE J 1777-1990 (SAE J1777-1990), General Environmental Considerations for Marine Vehicles, is intended to be used as a guide for specific environmental requirements for marine vehicles and related equipment.
ASTM International has developed a number of standards related to maritime science, including standards ASTM D3694, Standard Practices for Preparation of Sample Containers and for Preservation of Organic Constituents, and ASTM D6517, Standard Guide for Field Preservation of Ground Water Samples.
ASTM F3449-20, Standard Guide for Inclusion of Cyber Risks into Maritime Safety Management Systems in Accordance with IMO Resolution MSC.428(98)―Cyber Risks and Challenges, is designed to provide the maritime industry with guidance, information, and options for incorporating cyber elements into safety management systems (SMS) in accordance with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and other U.S. and international requirements.
Another standard for ocean explorations was developed by IEEE: IEEE 2402, IEEE Standard Design Criteria of Complex Virtual Instruments (CVI) for Ocean Observation. This document provides guidelines for the CVI-based development process, covering management of observed data and metadata, virtual instrument engine based on geospatial information, and service interfaces for CVI interactions.
These are just a few standards that support the world of deep-sea explorations, and the discoveries that lie ahead. Learn more about the recent discoveries from NOAA and an article published in Scientific American.