The Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ), a project of the Census of Marine Life, aimed to identify and study the biodiversity of animal plankton around the world, including ~6,800 described species in fifteen phyla.
Holozooplankton (hereafter called "zooplankton") are small animals that drift in the ocean waves through their entire lives. As such, they are not very easy to count or even identify to species -- but that was the goal of CMarZ. The scientists working on the project aimed to study the species diversity, genetic diversity, geographic distribution and total biomass of zooplankton worldwide, focusing on the ~7,000 species that had previously been described.
The scientists focused on the deep sea, under-sampled regions (such as the waters of Southeast Asia), and biodiversity hotspots, identifying species based on both morphology and DNA barcoding. The scientists collected zooplankton at the deepest regions yet -- more than 16,000 feet (5,000 meters) -- and developed technology to perform DNA barcoding at sea.
Overall, these efforts produced the most comprehensive global view of zooplankton diversity, distribution, and abundance to date, including numbers of species and their biogeographical distributions, abundance, and genetic diversity, as well as an estimate of how much we don't yet know. This knowledge will provide a benchmark against which future changes resulting from climate change or other anthropogenic or natural variation can be measured, affected the study of ocean health, fisheries management, and the detection of introduced and invasive species.
Some of the project's achievements include: