Essential Ocean Variables for Southern Ocean Ecosystems (eEOVs)

eEOV will design and facilitate the implementation of an observing system of ecosystem essential ocean variables (eEOVs) to support investigations on dynamics and change in Southern Ocean ecosystems, including the development of priority measurements for biological systems, standardised methodologies for collecting and archiving biological data, the optimal design of sustained field programs, and strategies for implementing field observations, including supporting regional working groups and networking with existing and emerging programs. 

eEOV Status

eEOV is currently going through the pre-approval process, towards becoming an official SOOS Capability Working Group.

Name ID
eEOV Andrew
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Ocean observing systems like SOOS are expanding worldwide and need assistance to identify the biological and ecological variables that they should measure. Essential variables of the physical marine system are relatively well developed, and can be readily interpreted and used in the development and application of models of the physical systems. In comparison, Ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables (eEOVs) that indicate not only the status and change in marine habitats and the biotic components of the ecosystem, but also the function and dynamics of the ecosystem, need to be developed in order to establish research and monitoring programs to parallel monitoring of physical parameters (e.g., temperature, salinity). The readiness of eEOV observations will need to be assessed in order to design research efforts aimed at creating and using new eEOVs. Tools are now available to evaluate the efficacy of indicators and different field sampling designs (spatial and temporal sampling programs) and it is timely to begin to apply such methods to evaluate case studies of different marine ecosystems.

eEOVs need to be measured relatively easily and cost-effectively in order to achieve coverage in space and time to signal how ecosystems are changing. They need to encompass key biological attributes of marine ecosystems that underpin structure, function, and dynamics. Their identification will require the involvement of experts ranging from observations of key types of marine organisms to those with a theoretical understanding of the dynamics of ecosystems and the key drivers of their structure and function.

eEOV will make important contributions to SOOS Science Themes 4 and 6, and significant contribution to SOOS Objective 1 on designing an observing system.

Terms of Reference

eEOV will fulfil the following terms of reference over the next 5 years:

  1. To facilitate the identification and development of candidate ecosystem essential ocean variables (eEOVs) and to progress these to a mature state of readiness for inclusion in the Southern Ocean Observing System;
  2. For those eEOVs with a mature state of readiness, provide standardised methodologies for collecting and archiving data;
  3. Facilitate the design and implementation, at appropriate spatial and temporal scales, of field operations needed to adequately observe selected eEOVs;
  4. Provide support to regional working groups in the implementation of sustained biological observing systems;
  5. Establish linkages with existing and emerging programs, such as the Global Ocean Observing System and the CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program, to facilitate standardised data collection on eEOVs;
  6. Convene focussed sessions at national and international meetings, including SCAR and SCOR, and facilitate synthesis products, to increase the awareness of the science community to the importance of standardised biological observing. Provide annual reports to the SOOS SSC on activities and outcomes of the Ecosystems Working Group, and regular updates for the SOOS newsletter;
  7. Develop a funding plan to sustain the Working Group activities;
  8. Have products coming out of the WG acknowledging SOOS; and
  9. Contribute to international initiatives assessing the state of Southern Ocean ecosystems


eEOV is currently building membership. If you would like to be involved, please contact Andrew Constable (Andrew.Constable at

Planned Products and Outcomes

In the first year, the following products will be delivered: 

  1. Publication of approach for developing eEOVs in the Southern Ocean
  2. Compilation of existing methods on SOKI for obtaining time-series of biological variables, including identification of existing standard methods
  3. Priorities for progressing other methods to standard methods
  4. For commonly used methods, reviews of their state of readiness for the purposes of ecosystem observing
  5. Workplan (strategy) for progressing the state of readiness of eEOVs.

Strategy and Milestones

A strategy with milestones will be developed in the first 6 months to establish task groups and milestones with an achievable timeline for the following activities:


  1. Summarise from recent publications key end users of the products from the WG and their primary requirements from biological observing
  2. Determine the available variables
  3. Progress existing standard methods/strategies using GOOS biogeochemistry template (e.g., MEOP, CPR)
  4. Document methods for integrating with/using other observing systems (e.g. CEMP and CCAMLR) to avoid duplicating effort
  5. Review approaches for different regions at present and identify key lessons and gaps
  6. Test existing data against models
  7. Develop a strategy for working through the candidate ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables (such as advance only a few each year)

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