Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New study examines how ocean energy impacts life in the deep sea

06.09.2012
Results will help scientists understand what to expect under future climate change

A new study of deep-sea species across the globe aims to understand how natural gradients in food and temperature in the dark, frigid waters of the deep sea affect the snails, clams, and other creatures that live there.


This shows assorted invertebrates on the seafloor off of Central California (Tiburon Dive# 606; Lat= 37.4; Lon= -123.3; Depth= 1949.8 m).

Credit: Courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) (c) 2003

Similar studies have been conducted for animals in the shallow oceans, but our understanding of the impact of food and temperature on life in the deep sea — the Earth's largest and most remote ecosystem — has been more limited.

The results will help scientists understand what to expect in the deep sea under future climate change, the researchers say. "Our findings indicate that the deep sea, once thought remote and buffered against climatic change, may function quite differently in the future," they write.

All living things need energy in the form of food, heat and light to survive, grow, and reproduce. But for life in the deep sea — defined as anything beyond 600 feet (200 m) — energy of any kind is in short supply. Descend more than a few hundred feet beneath the ocean surface, and you'll find a blue-black world of near-freezing temperatures, and little or no light.

Because so little of the sun's light penetrates the surface waters, there are no plants for animals to eat. Most deep-sea animals feed on tiny particles of dead and decaying organic matter drifting down from the sunlit waters above. It is estimated that less than 1% of the food at the surface reaches the ocean's watery depths.

The researchers wanted to know what this energy deprivation means for deep sea habitats across the globe, and for the animals that live there. "How much of the differences that we see across different groups of deep-sea animals in terms of growth, or lifespan, or the number of species, are related to differences in the temperature or amount of food where they occur?" said co-author Craig McClain of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

To find out, the researchers compiled previously published data for hundreds of deep-sea species across the globe, ranging from crabs and snails to fish and tube worms. The data included parameters like metabolic rate, lifespan, growth, biomass, abundance, size and diversity.

The results suggest that the relative importance of the two basic forms of energy available in the deep sea — food and warmth — vary considerably, said co-author Michael Rex at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

Temperature has the biggest impact on parameters at the individual level, such as metabolism and growth rate. For example, deep sea animals living in warmer waters tend to have faster metabolisms.

But for higher-level parameters such as abundance or species diversity, food is more important. Generally speaking, food-rich areas tend to have animals that are bigger, more abundant and more diverse.

The results add to the growing body of evidence that the deep sea isn't isolated from the effects of climate change, the researchers say.

"The oceans are getting warmer and they're producing less food," McClain said. Warmer water in the deep sea due to climate change could mean faster growth and metabolism for the animals that live there, but that could be bad news if the oceans produce less food to support them.

"The news is not good," Rex added. "Changes in temperature and food availability associated with climate change could cause widespread extinction in the deep ocean if environmental changes occur faster than deep-sea organisms can respond by shifting their ranges or adapting to new conditions."

The study was published online in the September 4, 2012 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other authors of the study were Andrew Allen of Macquarie University in Australia, and Derek Tittensor of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the United Kingdom.

CITATION: McClain, C., A. Allen, et al. (2012). "The energetics of life on the deep sea floor." PNAS. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1208976109

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is a nonprofit science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. Funded by the National Science Foundation, NESCent is jointly operated by Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. For more information about research and training opportunities at NESCent, visit www.nescent.org.

Robin Ann Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nescent.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>