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The Bivalve Effect : New Understanding of Marine Ecology Will Enable Better Management of Resources

05.05.2010
Explaining and understanding life cycles is on many people’s minds in spring, and McGill Biologist Dr. Frédéric Guichard is no exception – in fact, he’s made a fascinating discovery relating to the life, death, reproduction and communication … of mussels.

Guichard says marine life can communicate over thousands of kilometres, calling into question current fishery management and marine preservation practices. “If I kill mussels in San Diego, it will have an impact in Seattle. We now know that populations are connected,” he said.

Using mathematical modeling and data from natural populations, Guichard and his colleagues, Dr. Tarik Gouhier and Dr. Bruce A. Menge at Oregon State University, found a phenomenon similar to the “butterfly effect,” whereby the actions of one individual can cause a series of chain reactions. Mussel populations communicate by actions such as releasing larvae or dying. “Current practices are based on the knowledge that a mussel can travel no further than 100 km in its lifespan, so efforts are focused on local areas in the belief that we can control local populations,” Guichard explains. “But this ‘fence approach’ only looks at the life history of an animal, which isn’t enough to predict how it will affect its environment and other marine life.

“We can now see what we normally don’t look for in the wild, so we can use this model to better manage their numbers. Scientists have long theorized about this, but this is the proof,” Guichard said.

The principles of their discovery should be applicable to many species and will have important ramifications in the short term for the design of marine reserves and in the longer term for fisheries management. Frédéric Guichard was funded by the James McDonnell Foundation and the research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

On the Web: http://falco.biol.mcgill.ca

L’effet bivalve
Une nouvelle compréhension de l’écologie marine pour une meilleure gestion des ressources

Au printemps, un grand nombre de personnes cherchent à expliquer et à comprendre les cycles de la vie. Le biologiste et professeur mcgillois Frédéric Guichard n’y fait pas exception. En effet, il a fait une découverte fascinante au sujet de la vie, de la mort, de la reproduction et de la communication…des moules. Le professeur Guichard affirme que les animaux marins communiquent sur des milliers de kilomètres, ce qui remet en question les méthodes actuelles de gestion des pêches et de préservation de la vie marine. « Si je tue des moules à San Diego, cela aura un impact à Seattle. Nous savons maintenant que les populations sont connectées », a-t-il déclaré.

Se servant d’un modèle mathématique et de données provenant de populations naturelles, le professeur Guichard et ses collègues, Tarik Gouhier, PhD, et le professeur Bruce A. Menge, de l’Université d’État de l’Oregon, ont découvert un phénomène similaire à l’« effet papillon », par lequel les actions d’un individu peuvent entraîner des réactions en chaîne. Les populations de moules communiquent par des actions comme la libération de larves ou par leur mortalité. « Les présentes pratiques sont fondées sur la connaissance qu’une moule ne peut parcourir plus de 100 kilomètres au cours de sa vie; les efforts sont par conséquent concentrés sur les régions locales où l’on croit pouvoir exercer une influence auprès des populations locales », a expliqué le professeur Guichard. « Mais cette démarche ‘isolée’ ne tient compte que de la vie d’un animal, ce qui n’est pas suffisant pour prédire comment il influencera son environnement et le reste de la vie marine. »

« Nous pouvons maintenant voir ce qu’habituellement nous ne cherchons pas dans la nature; nous pouvons par conséquent utiliser ce modèle pour mieux gérer les populations. Depuis longtemps, les scientifiques élaborent des théories sur cette question, mais nous en possédons maintenant la preuve », a déclaré le professeur Guichard.

Les principes de leur découverte devraient s’appliquer à de nombreuses espèces et auront d’importantes ramifications sur la conception de réserves marines, à court terme, et sur la gestion des pêches, à long terme. Frédéric Guichard a été financé par la Fondation James McDonnell et la recherche publiée dans les actes de l’Académie nationale des sciences.

Internet : http://falco.biol.mcgill.ca

William Raillant-Clark | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://falco.biol.mcgill.ca
http://www.mcgill.ca

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