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Assessing the state of the oceans

Fisheries Conservation Pollution Endangered Species Invasive alien species Long-term data monitoring Climate change Biosecurity

The second World Ocean Assessment – WOA II – is a global exercise by hundreds of marine scientists to evaluate trends and identify knowledge gaps in the world ocean. Two chapters of WOA II have made use of several components of the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone.

Book cover WOA2

“Databases developed by Flanders turned out to be crucial for the latest UN Ocean Report, the only integrated assessment of the world’s ocean covering environmental, economic and social aspects.”

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

The World Ocean Assessment (WOA) is an initiative of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), serving as the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. The UN is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.


The World Ocean Assessment (WOA) is based on the realization that there is a need for a regular process of global reporting on the state of the marine environment. From a scientific basis, this document provides a baseline for assessing the effectiveness of governance and policy decisions, and a guide for developing new problem-solving strategies and technologies. In addition, this publication shows the state of knowledge of the ocean and how humans use and influence this ecosystem.


LifeWatch data experts from the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) were among the 300 experts selected from a global pool of 780 to contribute to the second cycle of the World Ocean Assessment, a +1,000-page landmark document. While the first report (WOA I) aimed at establishing baselines in 2015, the scope of the second cycle (WOA II; 2016-2020) extended to evaluating trends and identifying gaps.

coral reef

Used components of the LifeWatch Infrastructure

Two global reference marine databases managed by VLIZ were used extensively in WOA II: the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), a catalogue of species names, and MarineRegions, a geographic dictionary of marine place names. These two components of the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone (LW-SIBb) contributed to two chapters in WOA II: 6A and 6B. Chapter 6A describes the biodiversity of plankton, and in particular contains information on unicellular phytoplankton, bacteria, viruses and metazoans. Chapter 6B focuses on benthos. Especially in this last chapter, the LifeWatch-SIBb proved its value to the scientists involved, by combining information from the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) and Marine Regions and making it available for analysis.

logo marine regions


Key Publications

  • (2021). The Second World Ocean Assessment, Volume 1. United Nations: New York. ISBN 978-92-1-130422-0. xxiii, 543 pp.
  • (2021). The Second World Ocean Assessment, Volume II. United Nations: New York. ISBN 978-92-1-130422-0. xvii, 500 pp.
  • Jørgensen, L.L.; Arvanitidis, C.; Birchenough, S.N.R.; Clark, M.R.; Cruz, I.C.S.; Cunha, M.; Deidun, A.; Gobin, J.; Hossain, M.; de Jesus, A.C.M.; Mifsud, C.; Nguyen, K.B.; Park, C.; Przeslawski, R.; Rice, J.; Schepers, L.; Snelgrove, P.; Strelkova, N.; Vandepitte, L. (2021). Marine invertebrates, in: The Second World Ocean Assessment, Volume 1. pp. 141-159




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WoRMS: Leen Vandepitte 

MarineRegions: Lennert Schepers


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