On June 4th, the OTZ Team participated in the World Economic Forum & Friends of Ocean Action Virtual Ocean Dialogues. The ocean's twilight zone comprises the “midwater,” a layer of the ocean between the sun-lit surface and dark abyssal seas. This vibrant ecosystem is home to unique and potentially irreplaceable biodiversity. Widely recognized as one of Earth’s final frontiers, scientific knowledge of this vast ecosystem is lagging and striking results of new research hint that the midwater may contain more biomass than that of all other fisheries on Earth combined and it may be at risk.

The depletion of many traditional wild-harvest fisheries in the face of burgeoning demand to feed the world’s human population could lead to a rush to harvest the twilight zone’s fish before the vital role it plays in Earth’s life support system is fully understood. This midwater ecosystem also control the rate at which the ocean can take up atmospheric carbon dioxide and transfer it to the deep ocean. If this biological carbon pump were to be turned off, the enormous carbon sequestration service provided by the ocean could lead to much higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby accelerating consequent climate changes.

Empowered by the TED Audacious Projects, researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have undertaken a large-scale, comprehensive exploration of the twilight zone designed to develop a new understanding of this important ecosystem, including new approaches to ocean observation and engagement. This will help lay the groundwork for long-term sustainability.

© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution