Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Expeditions Reveal Gulf of California’s Deep Sea Secrets, As Well As Human Imprints

05.12.2008
Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego returning from research expeditions in Mexico have captured unprecedented details of vibrant sea life and ecosystems in the Gulf of California, including documentations of new species and marine animals previously never seen alive.

Yet the expeditions, which included surveys at unexplored depths, have revealed disturbing declines in sea-life populations and evidence that human impacts have stretched down deeply in the gulf.

In one expedition, researchers Exequiel Ezcurra (adjunct professor at Scripps Oceanography and former provost of the San Diego Natural History Museum), Brad Erisman (Scripps postdoctoral researcher) and Octavio Aburto-Oropeza (graduate student researcher) traveled on a three-person submarine to explore marine life in the Gulf of California’s deep-sea reefs and around undersea mountains called seamounts.

The DeepSee submersible gave the researchers unique access to environments below 50 meters (164 feet), depths virtually unknown in the gulf because of their inaccessibility below scuba diving levels.

“Our investigation resulted in many new discoveries, which included new species of invertebrates and possibly fishes,” said Erisman. “Similarly, we collected and observed species that had not been recorded in the gulf, had never been observed alive or had never been observed at such depths.”

“The synergistic collaboration between Scripps researchers and the San Diego Natural History Museum was the driver of this wonderful endeavor,” said Ezcurra. “We were able to raise the funds for the boat and the DeepSee submersible in record time, allowing us to invite some of Mexico’s top marine scientists to join the team. The long tradition of binational cooperation nurtured by the museum in its 134 years of life was instrumental in this collaborative development.”

Scientists at universities in Mexico are now conducting detailed genetic and morphological (form and structure) investigations to determine the species status of various animals.

But along with the excitement of discovery came disturbing signs of human impacts in the gulf’s depths, and, in particular, signals that overfishing has decimated ecosystems. Large schools of fish documented in earlier expeditions at locations such as El Bajo seamount have vanished. The researchers also say depths at comparable areas, such as Cocos Island off Costa Rica, reveal much more marine life and healthier ecosystems than those studied in the Gulf of California that are impacted by fishing and pollution.

“The human impacts in shallow areas have been well documented, but our observations make it clear that we are reaching down deeper and modifying the deeper ecosystems and their communities as well,” said Aburto-Oropeza. “We have lots of evidence of ghost nets with trapped animals at many depths, along with pollution, including beer cans, in each deep location we studied.”

The researchers hope their findings will reach beyond scientific circles and be incorporated into conservation and management plans to restore healthy marine-life populations and promote sustainable fisheries in the gulf.

Although the evidence of human encroachment was plentiful, the researchers also traveled to remote locations where sea populations thrived, destinations where human impacts are reduced or virtually non-existent. Such was the case at Las Animas, a seamount tucked halfway between Loreto and La Paz. At its location buffered from urban impacts, Las Animas suffers minimally from fishing and human activities.

There the researchers found booming fish populations, an extraordinarily rich variety of red snapper species, unique shrimp species and possibly new species of sea urchins and cucumbers.

During a separate expedition completed in October, Erisman and Aburto-Oropeza studied marine life at Cabo Pulmo, a protected national park near the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. Here again the researchers documented a “biodiversity hotspot” with thriving fish populations and a rich mix of sea life in the absence of human environmental pressures. They witnessed large tiger sharks, now a rarity in Baja California.

Erisman and Aburto-Oropeza say Las Animas and Cabo Pulmo, contrasted by the relatively depleted sea life witnessed at locations such as El Bajo, are examples of “shifting baselines,” the concept promoted by Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, and others. The term describes the deterioration of standards and failing to realize how much has changed over years and generations.

“At Las Animas and Cabo Pulmo, we have seen that if you leave areas without human pressure, the elements of the environment will allow them to rebound to a previous, more healthy ecosystem state,” said Aburto-Oropeza.

“These expeditions far exceeded what we expected,” said Erisman. “From the first dive, the results escalated in success as I witnessed a hundred times more organisms than I expected. It was amazing and we are excited about the possibilities.”

The custom-built DeepSee submersible, owned by expedition co-leader Steve Drogin, a San Diego photographer and marine explorer, allowed the scientists to survey marine life with its 360-degree-view glass dome. The researchers concentrated on marine life between 50 and 300 meters (164 and 984 feet), although DeepSee is capable of reaching 475 meters (1,500 feet).

Another startling discovery came in September on a separate expedition when Drogin and his colleagues discovered a hydrothermal vent just south of Loreto at a depth of 450 feet. Drogin reported dramatic views around the vent and water temperatures reaching 266 Fahrenheit degrees (130 degrees Celsius).

“It felt to me like walking into the middle of a forest fire, with flames shooting out. It was very dramatic,” said Drogin.

Expedition funders (in alphabetical order):

Christy Walton
CONABIO – Commission for Biodiversity
INE – National Institute of Ecology, Mexico
International Community Foundation
The Marisla Foundation
The Mexican Conservation Fund
The National Geographic Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
The Packard Foundation
The Sandler Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
Expedition partners:
Steve Drogin, San Diego
San Diego Natural History Museum
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
Autonomous University of Baja California Sur
National Institute of Ecology, Mexico
National Autonomous University of Mexico
Mexican Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at UC San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $155 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.

Mario Aguilera | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu
http://scripps.ucsd.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

nachricht The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>