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Organization of marine phenology data in support of planning and conservation in ocean and coastal ecosystems

September 23, 2014

Among the many effects of climate change is its influence on the phenology of biota. In marine and coastal ecosystems, phenological shifts have been documented for multiple life forms; however, biological data related to marine species' phenology remain difficult to access and is under-used. We conducted an assessment of potential sources of biological data for marine species and their availability for use in phenological analyses and assessments. Our evaluations showed that data potentially related to understanding marine species' phenology are available through online resources of governmental, academic, and non-governmental organizations, but appropriate datasets are often difficult to discover and access, presenting opportunities for scientific infrastructure improvement. The developing Federal Marine Data Architecture when fully implemented will improve data flow and standardization for marine data within major federal repositories and provide an archival repository for collaborating academic and public data contributors. Another opportunity, largely untapped, is the engagement of citizen scientists in standardized collection of marine phenology data and contribution of these data to established data flows. Use of metadata with marine phenology related keywords could improve discovery and access to appropriate datasets. When data originators choose to self-publish, publication of research datasets with a digital object identifier, linked to metadata, will also improve subsequent discovery and access. Phenological changes in the marine environment will affect human economics, food systems, and recreation. No one source of data will be sufficient to understand these changes. The collective attention of marine data collectors is needed—whether with an agency, an educational institution, or a citizen scientist group—toward adopting the data management processes and standards needed to ensure availability of sufficient and useable marine data to understand marine phenology.

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