An index designed to measure the health of the world’s oceans has given an overall global score of 60 out of 100, suggesting that there is substantial room for improvement. The assessment, reported in Nature this week, considers a wide range of factors that contribute to the health of the oceans and the benefits that they provide to humans. This measure could help to increase public understanding of ocean health around the world.
Oceans have an important role in supporting aspects of human life, from providing food, livelihoods and recreational opportunities to regulating global climate. Efforts to manage the state of the oceans, addressing the needs of both humans and nature, require a means of measuring ocean health. Benjamin Halpern and colleagues created a comprehensive ocean health index, which includes assessments of biodiversity and protection of costal areas, and calculated scores for every coastal country. They find that developed nations are doing better than developing ones, but there is wide variation and notable exceptions — some developed countries, such as Poland and Singapore, scored poorly, whereas Suriname and Seychelles, both developing countries, had relatively high scores.
The authors propose that their index might provide a powerful tool for informing decisions about how to use or protect ocean ecosystems.