CENSUS OF MARINE ZOOPLANKTON (CMarZ) –
AN OCEAN REALM BIODIVERSITY PROJECT
Vijayalakshmi R. Nair
Member, Steering Group, CMarZ
Consultant, National Institute of Oceanography, Regional Centre, Kochi
Enormous amount of data on zooplankton species are being accumulated through
various expeditions, cruises and site-specific investigations from different oceans. These are
not accessible to all and it is necessary to formulate a plan to consolidate the available
information in the form of a baseline report for proper dissemination of the results on a global
basis. To implement this, Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ), an ocean realm field
project of the Census of Marine Life (CoML), was launched in 2004. CMarZ established
project offices in the USA, Germany, and Japan to coordinate the first taxonomically
comprehensive global scale assessment of planktonic animal life in the worlds’ oceans.
CMarZ is led by a Steering Group, with 22 members from 16 countries, including India. The
Steering Group guides scientific and technical development and ensures close co-ordination
with other CoML projects.
The CMarZ goal is to produce accurate and complete information on species diversity,
biomass, biogeographic distribution and genetic diversity by 2010, focusing on ~ 6800
described species of zooplankton that drift with ocean currents throughout their lives (i.e. the
holozoopankton). The global census of marine zooplankton will make use of existing data,
archived zooplankton collections and additional sampling from under sampled regions and
biodiversity hotspots. It is expected that many new zooplankton species will be discovered
through this effort. Molecular systematic and phylogeographic assessment of species will be
done to ensure accurate estimation of biodiversity. Professional training and capacity building
are major objectives of CMarZ considering the dwindling number of taxonomic experts in
Zooplankton. The CMarZ network is an association of zooplankton taxonomists, ecologists
and oceanographers committed to working towards the goal of completing the project. The
database on species page is set up to make summary presentation of taxonomic,
morphological, ecological, biogeographical and molecular information of zooplankton species.
A distributed database is needed with species level, specimen based and geo-referenced
entries. The CMarZ database will be fully integrated with and searchable from Ocean
Biogeographical Information System (OBIS) portal. CMarZ will focus on generation of new
sampling technologies, new analytical tools and global scale understanding by 2010.
CMarZ has made notable accomplishments during 2004-2006. Nineteen co-operative
projects were initiated including taxonomic workshops, data & sample analyses, creation of
database & website and oceanographic cruises for zooplankton collection. The expected
important outcome of CMarZ are more complete knowledge of biodiversity, new
understanding of the functional role of biodiversity in ocean ecosystems and better
characterization of global scale patterns of zooplankton biodiversity in the world oceans.