Ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables(eEOVs)

Developing ecosystem essential ocean variables for the Southern Ocean ecosystem (eEOVs) and routine delivery of products.



Andrew Constable (Australian Antarctic Division, Australia)
Irene Schloss (Argentinian Antarctic Institute, Argentina)


Oscar Schofield (Palmer LTER, USA)
Monica Muelbert (Institute of Oceanography, University of Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil)


A Task Team is proposed to document, evaluate and develop routine reporting products for ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables (eEOVs) to support assessments of the status and trends of Southern Ocean ecosystems. The task team would aim to complete its work and provide a report with recommendations to SOOS Scientific Steering Committee by the end of 2019, in conjunction with the first Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean being undertaken by the program Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics, a joint program of IMBeR and SCAR.


Ocean observing systems like SOOS are expanding worldwide and are in the process of identifying the biological and ecological variables that they should measure. Essential variables of the physical marine system are relatively well developed, and can be readily interpreted and used in the development and application of models and assessments of the physical systems. In comparison, ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables (eEOVs) that indicate not only the status and change in marine habitats and the biotic components of the ecosystem, but also the function and dynamics of the ecosystem, need to be developed in order to establish research and monitoring programs to parallel monitoring of physical parameters (e.g., temperature, salinity). SOOS has undertaken a process to articulate its needs for eEOVs and, as a result. has a list of candidate eEOVs (Constable et al 2016) but needs to undertake a community-wide evaluation as to which eEOVs would be the best variables for which sustained observing would be implemented by Regional Working Groups.


eEOVs need to be measured relatively easily and cost-effectively in order to achieve coverage in space and time to signal how ecosystems are changing. They need to encompass key biological attributes of marine ecosystems that underpin structure, function, and dynamics. Their identification will require the involvement of experts ranging from observations of key types of marine organisms to those with a theoretical understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems and the key drivers of their structure and function.


A Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO) is being undertaken by the IMBeR-SCAR program Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics of the Southern Ocean (ICED). This first MEASO aims to assess status and trends of Southern Ocean ecosystems as well as provide recommendations for future work. One theme of these recommendations will be the types of ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables needed for measuring change in key components of the ecosystem as well as eEOVs that would inform the models used in assessments. MEASO provides an opportunity for further developing the ecosystem observing of SOOS in alignment with GOOS's Framework for Ocean Observation (FOO - Lindsdrom et al. 2012).


A SOOS Task Team is proposed that would work with MEASO, aiming to fully document candidate eEOVs and undertake consultation with the Southern Ocean research community on which eEOVs would be most practicable to implement in the first instance. Evaluation of candidate eEOVs for inclusion in SOOS will reflect their “readiness level” as proposed by the FOO. The protocol for "new components/observing elements" under the Framework, will encourage collaboration among developed and developing regions, and promote the use of common standards and best practices around the Southern Ocean, taking into account local and regional "diversity".


March-May 2019 Compilation of existing methods for obtaining time-series of biological variables, including identification of existing standard methods

Output: Descriptions of eEOV variable and methods in SOKI (see here for existing descriptions)


3-7 June 2019 At MEASO workshop, prioritise which candidate eEOVs will be evaluated by the scientific community. Consider the general products that could be routinely produced by SOOS, based on the eEOVs.

Output: Table of priority eEOVs for review, along with types of products that might be produced (via scripts) by SOOS. Method for review agreed, based on approaches used in GOOS.


July-September 2019 In consultation with the scientific community, review of the state of readiness of priority candidate eEOVs for the purposes of ecosystem observing


October-December 2019 Finalise report and recommendations for developing and progressing eEOVs in Regional Working Groups

Output: PDF Report of the outcomes of the review published on the SOOS website, including eEOV descriptions and recommendations for Regional Working Groups.

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