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The open ocean marine ecosystem covers 70% of the Earth's surface, and ranges from Arctic to tropical waters and from coral reef and surface systems to deep water ecosystems kilometres beneath the ocean surface. The marine ecosystem is being affected by climate change:

  • Sea level rise due to ocean warming affects marine ecosystem adaptation;
  • More severe marine storms occurring more often affects coastal habitats;
  • Pacific Ocean El Nino warming affects Canadian economics in fisheries, aquaculture, coastal recreation.

The Arctic marine ecosystem has unique challenges due to the harsh northern climate including marine mammal habitat, changing ice cover. Coastal zone ecosystems are complex, dynamic environments, where land and ocean meet:

  • interaction of human activities and nature's rhythms;
  • fragile environment, characterised by slow and rapid erosion and prone to catastrophic disasters (hurricanes, tidal waves);
  • very diverse ecosystem of plants animals and birds both in the water and on the shore area;
  • many sea animals and birds utilize the coastal zone for food and nurseries for their young;
  • many land-based animals, birds and humans use coastal zones as prime habitat and feeding ground;
  • globally, increasing numbers of humans live and work in the coastal zones;
  • humans add nutrient and toxic waste into coastal waters affecting all coastal zone quality of life including their own;
  • humans try to disrupt and control the normal fluctuating state to achieve a stable, predictable physical environment for human habitation and utilization.

Space-based Earth Observation is the only efficient means by which to collect regular, worldwide information on key climate change parameters such as sea surface temperature and ocean salinity.

  • Space-based Earth Observation provides a unique overview critical to understanding and monitoring coastal ecosystems and implementing integrated coastal management.
  • Space-based communications are the only means for ships to communicate at sea.

Some recent mandates involving the application of space technology to oceans and coastal zones included: