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 Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>