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Scientists conclude 10-year marine census

Washington -- A decade-long Census of Marine Life by 2,700 scientists from 80 countries has been completed and revealed thousands of new species, its U.S. founders say.

The initiative launched 570 expeditions that produced more than 2,600 academic papers and collected 30 million observations of 120,000 species. Researchers found a possible 6,000 new species, 1,200 of which have been formally described, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The project has "defined what is unknown" about the ocean and shed light on how it functions, said Jesse Ausubel, program director for the funding Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the vice president of the census.

"The oceans are richer than we imagined, more connected than we imagined, and they're more altered," he said.

The project has established a baseline for key ocean areas, including regions of the Gulf of Mexico damaged in the BP oil spill.

As of 2009, researchers had identified 8,332 species in the area of the gulf nearest to the spill, providing authorities with what Ausubel called "a checklist" from which they can compare a year or two from now.

Ian Poiner, chairman of the project's scientific steering committee said that, in the end, the census sought to answer a basic but daunting question: "What did live in the ocean, what does live in the ocean and what will live in the ocean?"

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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