SCOR Achievements

Since 1957, SCOR has been a major force in the advancement of ocean science worldwide, providing mechanisms to bring together scientific expertise and financial resources to build the foundation of ocean science knowledge that is necessary to understand the ocean and its interactions with the land and atmosphere. SCOR has benefited from partnerships with many organizations. The following advancements would not have been achieved as early and/or as well without SCOR leadership. In all cases of co-sponsored projects listed below, SCOR provided the majority of funding for the activities.

Equation of State of Seawater–SCOR’s first work on the equation of state of seawater began with the formation of SCOR WG 10 on Oceanographic Tables and Standards, which was later renamed the Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards (JPOTS), as it became a joint activity of SCOR, ICES, IAPO, and UNESCO. JPOTS formulated the 1980 version of the equation of state of Seawater (EOS-80). SCOR and the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean (IAPSO) co-sponsored WG 127 on Thermodynamics and Equation of State of Seawater, which updated the equation of state of seawater, which relates density, salinity, and pressure, and expressed the parameters in units of the International System of Units, to produce TEOS-10.

Iron in the Ocean–In recent years, ocean scientists have recognized the important role that iron plays in controlling ocean productivity. SCOR has helped advance this field of study through three working groups and an international research project. SCOR and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry created WG 109 on The Biogeochemistry of Iron in Seawater in 1996. The group published The Biogeochemistry of Iron in Seawater in 2001, which documented the state of understanding of the role of iron in the ocean. The group also led to the first intercomparison of the measurements of iron in seawater, which identified the poor comparability of measurements from different laboratories using different methods. SCOR sponsored WG 131 on The Legacy of in situ Iron Enrichment: Data Compilation and Modeling, which compiled data from the 10 large-scale iron fertilization experiments that had been conducted to that point (see article). SCOR is currently supporting WG 151: Iron Model Intercomparison Project (FeMIP) to help resolve differences in how iron biogeochemistry is represented in models. Finally, the SCOR-sponsored GEOTRACES project has vastly expanded the amount of iron data available in all ocean basins, from the surface to the seafloor.

Ocean Acidification–SCOR and the Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone project co-sponsored WG 104 on Coral Reef Responses To Global Change: The Role of Adaptation, which provided some of the first modelling results related to the effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on coral reefs, as documented in a special issue of the journal American Zoologist in 1999. SCOR led the development of the first three symposia on The Ocean in a High-CO2 World. Each symposium was co-sponsored by partner organizations, but SCOR contributed most of the financial and staff resources. These symposia stimulated ocean acidification as a research topic and helped provide a mechanism for the international research community to share research results and identify research priorities. More information about the first three symposia is available here. The fourth symposium, held in 2016, was planned and executed by the international community of scientists working on the topic of ocean acidification. Many scientists active in ocean acidification research continue to consider this symposium series as central to the community.

Ocean Carbon–SCOR has sponsored several working groups that have advanced knowledge related to carbon in the ocean, as well as to improving ocean carbon measurements (see details here).

Pelagic Fish Populations and Climate Change–SCOR and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO formed WG 98 on Worldwide Large-scale Fluctuations of Sardine and Anchovy Populations to examine how climate modes such as El Niño affect population levels of small pelagic fishes, such as sardines and anchovies, in eastern boundary upwelling systems.The group published a paper in 1999 showing correlations between fluctuations of fish populations, so-called “teleconnections”. SCOR and IOC also co-sponsored the Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) project.  The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme later joined as a co-sponsor. This project focused on the effects of physics on fish populations.

Phytoplankton pigments–SCOR approved WG 17 on Determination of Photosynthetic Pigments in December 1963, chaired by J. Krey from Germany.  The group was co-sponsored by UNESCO. The group focused on working out basic methods to extract chlorophyll for pigment determination. The group produced a manual entitled Determination of Photosynthetic Pigments in Seawater in 1966, the first publication in the UNESCO series Monographs on Oceanographic Methodology. (This series was recommended by SCOR in 1963. SCOR working groups went on to publish many monographs in this series.) SCOR approved WG 78 on Determination of Photosynthetic Pigments in Seawater in 1994, chaired by R.F.C. Mantoura (UK) to update the information about spectrophotometric determination of phytoplankton pigments, extending beyond chlorophyll into other pigments. This working group was co-sponsored by UNESCO and produced the book Phytoplankton Pigments in Oceanography: Guidelines to Modern Methods in 1997, the tenth book in the Monographs in Oceanographic Methodology series.  This book was used by biological oceanographers worldwide. Finally, in 2001, an editorial group formed by SCOR and led by Suzanne Roy (Canada) updated the manual and produced Phytoplankton Pigments: Characterization, Chemotaxonomy and Applications in Oceanography.

Trace Elements and Isotopes in the Ocean–SCOR is the sole international sponsor of the GEOTRACES project, which is creating a global baseline of measurements of trace elements and isotopes, in every ocean basin, from the ocean surface to the seafloor. The measurements are intercalibrated so that the data can be combined into a global dataset. The key trace elements and isotopes are those that are (1) micronutrients essential to life in the ocean (e.g., iron, zinc, cadmium, copper), (2) tracers of modern processes in the ocean (e.g., aluminum, manganese, nitrogen-15), (3) significantly perturbed by human activities (e.g. lead), and used as proxies to reconstruct the past (e.g. protactinium-231, thorium-230, and neodymium isotopes).