Humans depend on the ocean for food, medicine, transportation and recreation, yet little is known about how these vast ecosystems spanning 70 percent of the Earth's surface are functioning and changing. Following a workshop sponsored by U.S. federal agencies in 2010, researchers at eight institutions have proposed a blueprint for establishing a cooperative marine biodiversity observation network to monitor trends in marine ecosystem health and the distribution and abundance of oceanic life. The research will appear online in BioScience Thursday and in the journal's May print issue.
Biodiversity observation networks are indispensible tools, allowing scientists to follow and predict ecosystem changes to facilitate proactive responses to environmental pressures, said study co-author Gustav Paulay, invertebrate zoology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.
"Biodiversity is important not only because it's what the natural world is about, but also because tracking it tells you how healthy things are," Paulay said. "As an indicator of ecosystem health and resilience, biodiversity is key for sustaining oceans that face accelerating environmental change."
Experts determined a national marine biodiversity observation network could be established using existing technology within five years with appropriate funding and collaboration, but the effort requires strong leadership to integrate all the necessary elements, Paulay said. The study provides a series of recommendations, including coordination of existing efforts, digitization of historical data -- including vast museum collections – and establishment of regional centers to process and identify specimens.
"Tracking diversity is not just about tracking fish, or whales, or corals, but everything," Paulay said. "To date, there have been few attempts to track biodiversity broadly in the ocean."
From tiny phytoplankton and massive marine mammals to awe-inspiring sea dragons and ancient reefs, every element is important for healthy ecosystems, Paulay said.
Outside the U.S., efforts to create a marine biodiversity observation network have begun regionally in New Zealand and the European Union. The Smithsonian Institution also launched the first worldwide network of coastal field sites in 2012, a long-term project to monitor the ocean's coastal ecosystems.
Jim Carlton, a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts and director of the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport, said the concept of a marine network is critical because elements are inter-related, from water quality and issues with fisheries to the regular arrival of new invasive species.
"It's rather amazing that in 2013, we don't have a well-established marine biodiversity network -- how could we not?" said Carlton, who is not involved with the study. "All coasts around the world are changing and we have a remarkably poor understanding about the extent of that change in many areas."
People are more dependent on oceans than they may realize, and without a coordinated network, researchers will not know how to manage these ecosystems, he said.
"The oceans are feeding hundreds of millions of people, they control the Earth's climate, 90 percent of all world goods travel on the ocean and most people in the world live within 100 miles of the sea," Carlton said. "For recreation, we rely on the fact that we can go to a beach and not get sick. We depend upon a huge amount of these resources in ways that we often don't know, but it really means maintaining the health of the ocean."
Divers have witnessed the effects of climate change most clearly on coral reefs, whose delicate ecology is highly sensitive to changes in maximum ocean temperatures, Paulay said.
"The scale of change was driven home to me in Palau in 1998, during a survey soon after the 1998 Pacific-wide warming event," Paulay said. "Palau is one of the gems of the world in terms of marine environments and reef diversity. When we returned to sites that once had acre upon acre of vibrant staghorn and bottlebrush corals covering the bottom, we found but a desert of dead skeletons -- mortality was virtually 100 percent."
Study co-authors include Emmett Duffy of the College of William and Mary, Linda Amaral-Zettler of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., Daphne Fautin of the University of Kansas, Tatiana Rynearson of the University of Rhode Island, Heidi Sosik of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and John Stachowicz of the University of California, Davis.Writer: Danielle Torrent, email@example.com
Gustav Paulay | EurekAlert!
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy