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 Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika

23.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>