A Demonstration Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON): Understanding Marine Life and its Role in Maintaining Ecosystem Services

Frank E Muller-Karger, University of South Florida Tampa, Tampa, FL, United States, Katrin Iken, University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fairbanks, AK, United States, Robert J. Miller, University of California, Marine Science Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, J. Emmett Duffy, Smithsonian Institution, Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, Washington, DC, United States, Francisco Chavez, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Biological Oceanography, Watsonville, CA, United States and Enrique Montes, University of South Florida, St Petersburg, FL, United States
The U.S. Federal government (NOAA, NASA, BOEM, and the Smithsonian Institution), academic researchers, and private partners are laying the foundation for a Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON). The goals of the network are to: 1) Observe and understand life, from microbes to whales, in different coastal and continental shelf habitats; 2) Define an efficient set of observations required for implementing a useful MBON; 3) Develop technology for biodiversity assessments including emerging environmental DNA (eDNA), remote sensing, and image analysis methods to coordinate with classical sampling; 4) Integrate and synthesize information in coordination with the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), the international Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network(GEO BON), and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) sponsored by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC); and 5) Understand the linkages between marine biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and the social-economic context of a region.

Pilot projects have been implemented within three NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries (Florida Keys, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands), the wider Santa Barbara Channel, in the Chukchi Sea, and through the Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network (TMON) at several sites in the U.S. and collaborating countries. Together, these MBON sites encompass a wide range of marine environments, including deep sea, continental shelves, and coastal habitats including estuaries, wetlands, and coral reefs. The present MBON partners are open to growth of the MBON through additional collaborations. Given these initiatives, GEO BON is proposing an MBON effort that spans from pole to pole, with a pathfinder effort among countries in the Americas.

By specializing in coastal ecosystems—where marine biodiversity and people are concentrated and interact most—the MBON and TMON initiatives aim to provide policymakers with the science to support innovative solutions and advance management and protection of our oceans. The initiative contributes to addressing U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use marine resources. The MBON will facilitate and enable regional biodiversity assessments.