The Japanese word "nagisa" means the narrow strip where the land meets the sea. The Natural Geography In Shore Areas (NaGISA) project wanted to determine what organisms live in these coastal zones around the world.
The nearshore zone of the ocean—defined by the Census as the coastal areas to a depth of around 65 feet (20 meters)—is the most-studied region of the ocean because it is so easy to access from land. But surprisingly, we still don’t know how many species live by the shore: estimates vary widely, from 178,000 species to more than 10 million.
NaGISA scientists pulled on their boots and waded and dived in coastal waters around the world to estimate the number of species on our coasts more precisely. A reliable estimate should help scientists understand how diversity is changing over time, and allow them to answer big questions about the ocean, such as why there is more diversity in the tropics.
The coastal region has many types of ecosystems, too many for the researchers to account for, so they focused on just two: the rocky bottoms dominated by kelp forests and other seaweeds and soft-bottom areas covered by seagrasses. They chose these areas because they have high biodiversity and are found throughout the world, so researchers can work together to compare their discoveries from different sites.