What is the Ocean Twilight Zone?

It’s a fundamental part of the ocean and has great benefit to humans.

The ocean twilight zone is an important source of food for many marine animals, including valuable species like tuna and swordfish. It also plays an important, but little-studied role in taking carbon out of the atmosphere, which helps to regulate Earth’s climate. These two benefits alone are very important for humans, but they occur mostly out of sight, so many people aren’t even aware of them. By gaining more detailed information about the inner workings of the twilight zone, scientists will help government leaders and policymakers think more carefully about how to protect it while still harnessing its resources.

It contains a vast array of unstudied life.

The twilight zone contains more fish than almost any other part of the ocean, yet many of the creatures are poorly understood. Today, scientists have a unique opportunity to fill in those gaps in knowledge, but the more we study, the more we see needs to be learned. As a result, the team is building new ways to reach down and understand the abundance, diversity and connectedness of life in the twilight zone. At the same time, fishing fleets are poised to begin dipping their nets into this newfound bounty. By studying the twilight zone, researchers will support more informed, thoughtful choices about how best to use its resources while also protecting it. 

It can help advance ocean science as a whole.

Studying the twilight zone is a modern-day moonshot, driven by the urgent need to understand this massive ecosystem before humans change or irreparably damage it. In the process, our team is partnering with collaborators from around the globe and across the spectrum of ocean sciences to unearth new insights about the ocean and our planet. Like the massive drive to reach the moon in the 1960s, our efforts to study the twilight zone could also produce new tools and methods that will be useful to scientists everywhere. 

It can help build new policies to protect the ocean.

There are many examples throughout history of humans squandering rich natural resources, only to realize the impacts of those actions when it’s too late. By studying the ocean twilight zone today, our team is pioneering new ways of studying unexplored parts of the ocean, of shaping technical innovations, and of bringing news of our discoveries to new audiences. In doing so, we’re creating an opportunity to help shape new policies that can protect both the region, and the broader ocean as a whole, before human impact takes its toll.

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