We've explored such a small part of the ocean that we know more about the moon and Mars. This new three-dimensional map can help us get more acquainted with the body of water that occupies most of our planet, though. It sorts water masses around the world into 37 categories of different temperatures, salinity, oxygen and nutrient levels. There are other maps out there, but they mostly focus on surface or coastal ecosystems. This project, which is officially called ecological marine units (EMUs), includes the waters between the surface and the ocean floor. It maps the frigid waters of the deep sea, the oxygen-deprived Black Sea, the Red Sea and even some rivers in the Northern Hemisphere.
Since we have yet to explore most of the world's oceans, the map's creators had to use data averaged over five decades from the World Ocean Atlas. They also added their own, such as the shape of the sea floor, and used statistical techniques to group the results into categories. To keep the map accurate, though, they need to do recalculations every five years or so. The creators are hoping that the map can help conservationists and government officials make decisions for marine preservation. It could also help researchers with their studies, such as figuring out why certain marine animals live where they do.
One of the teams that helped create EMUs is geographic information system company Esri, which also worked on high-tech information-mapping project, Urban Observatory. Esri created a web portal for the project, so you can check out the three-dimensional map for yourself.