The next frontier: human settlements in the marine environment



Human settlements have permeated most terrestrial environments on Earth. With a rapidly growing global population, surging demands for finite resources and an unprecedented alteration to Earth’s ecosystems, the conservation of our only suitable habitat is a contemporary zeitgeist. These threats present a stark perspective on the trajectory of our species, and many have declared that we have reached a crossroads in this Anthropocene epoch. Now more than ever, humanity imagines a future amongst the heavens, while governments and private industries grapple with the challenges associated with settling our nearest celestial neighbors. Yet, in our over-ambitious attempts to forge new frontiers we have overlooked the largest domain of potential habitat: Earth’s oceans. Here, we present the case for humanity’s future over the marine environment. We support these notions with a global, constraint and opportunity based model that incorporates biotic, abiotic, political, and socioeconomic factors to assess the suitability of marine settlements. Our analysis shows that every oceanic basin supports regions where sustainable human settlements are plausible. More broadly, we discuss the implications of a human-marine frontier and the benefits that will ensue for science, humanity and global conservation efforts. Finally, we argue that the human-marine frontier should be the immediate stepping stone for exploration and must be overcome before we can realistically set our gaze beyond our biosphere.,All the data has been converted to netcdf or GeoTiFF files, and the script for processing and modelling the data is available at:,See for the R script.,
Date made available17 Sept 2020

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