Machine learning helps map global ocean communities

Friday, May 29, 2020 - 13:20 in Earth & Climate

On land, it’s fairly obvious where one ecological region ends and another begins, for instance at the boundary between a desert and savanna. In the ocean, much of life is microscopic and far more mobile, making it challenging for scientists to map the boundaries between ecologically distinct marine regions. One way scientists delineate marine communities is through satellite images of chlorophyll, the green pigment produced by phytoplankton. Chlorophyll concentrations can indicate how rich or productive the underlying ecosystem might be in one region versus another. But chlorophyll maps can only give an idea of the total amount of life that might be present in a given region. Two regions with the same concentration of chlorophyll may in fact host very different combinations of plant and animal life. “It’s like if you were to look at all the regions on land that don’t have a lot of biomass, that would include Antarctica and...

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