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Ecological Marine Units as a Framework for Collaborative Data Science and Knowledge Discovery
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  • Dawn Wright,
  • Roger Sayre,
  • Sean Breyer,
  • Kevin Butler,
  • Keith VanGraafeiland,
  • Mark Costello,
  • Kathy Goodin,
  • Maria Kavanaugh,
  • Noel Cressie,
  • Zeenatul Basher,
  • Peter Harris,
  • John Guinotte
Dawn Wright

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Roger Sayre
US Geological Survey
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Sean Breyer
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Kevin Butler
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Keith VanGraafeiland
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Mark Costello
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Kathy Goodin
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Maria Kavanaugh
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Noel Cressie
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Zeenatul Basher
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Peter Harris
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John Guinotte
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We present a data-derived, ecosystem mapping approach for the global ocean as commissioned by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and as a contribution to the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON). These ecological marine units (EMUs) are comprised of a global point mesh framework, created from over 52 million points from NOAA’s World Ocean Atlas with a spatial resolution of 1 by 1 degree (∼27 x 27 km at the equator) at 44 varying depths and a temporal resolution that is currently decadal. Each point carries attributes of chemical and physical oceanographic structure (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, silicate, phosphate) as likely drivers of many marine ecosystem responses. We used a k-means statistical clustering algorithm to identify physically distinct, relatively homogenous, volumetric regions within the water column (the EMUs). Backwards stepwise discriminant analysis determined if all of six variables contributed significantly to the clustering, and a pseudo F-statistic gave us an optimum number of clusters worldwide at 37. A major intent of the EMUs is to support marine biodiversity conservation assessments, economic valuation studies of marine ecosystem goods and services, and studies of ocean acidification and other impacts. As such, they represent a rich geospatial accounting framework for these types of studies, as well as for scientific research on species distributions. To further benefit the community and facilitate collaborate knowledge building, data products are shared openly and interoperably via www.esri.com/ecological-marine-units. This includes provision of 3D point mesh and EMU clusters at the surface, bottom, and within the water column in varying formats via download, web services or web apps, as well as generic algorithms and GIS workflows that scale from global to regional and local. Work is in progress to delineate EMUs at finer spatial and temporal resolutions and to include ocean currents and various biodiversity observations. A major aim is for the ocean science community members to move the research forward with higher-resolution data from their own field studies or areas of interest, with the original EMU project team assisting with GIS implementation (especially via a new online discussion forum), and hosting of additional data products as needed.