Report for NCEAS Workshop Deep-Sea Biodiversity: Pattern and Scale

March 30 - April 2, 1996

Workshop Co-Conveners: Michael A.Rex and Donald R. Strong, Jr.

Workshop Participants: R.R. Hessler, J. Frederick Grassle, Craig Smith, Ron J. Etter, Cindy Lee Van Dover, George D.F. Wilson, P. John D. Lambshead

The primary aim of this workshop was to relate patterns of biodiversity in the deep-sea benthos to the scales at which different processes act to shape these patterns. The concept of pattern and scale has emerged as the central problem in ecology and one that has the potential to both unify a highly disparate body of basic theory and to develop effective strategies to conserve global biodiversity. Deep-sea communities have now been sampled on local, regional and global scales.

However, because of the pace of discovery and the independent aims of various research programs, there has been little effort to synthesize pattern and scale. Our workshop brought together an international group of eight leading deep-sea ecologists who are investigating biodiversity at different scales. By working together on the internet before the workshop to identify specific questions, we were able to have a very focused meeting at NCEAS. We reviewed what has been published on spatiotemporal variation in biodiversity Q a major accomplishment since there existed no contemporary overview of deep-sea diversity at different scales and little previous recognition of the possibility that the many suggested causes of deep-sea diversity may operate at different scales. The workshop contributed numerous new ideas and perspectives that will be reflected and acknowledged in a special volume of Deep-Sea Research on Deep-Sea Biodiversity: Patterns and Processes, edited by workshop participant Craig Smith and containing original papers by at least six workshop participants. Papers from the special volume will be presented in a session on Deep-Sea Biodiversity at the 1998 Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego. We are also currently completing what is anticipated to be a benchmark article for Science (authored as the RNCEAS Deep-Sea Biodiversity Workshops). This paper reviews the tremendous recent strides made to measure biodiversity in the deep sea, reconciles some alternative explanations of diversity in the context of scale dependence and highlights why the extraordinary level of species coexistence found at great depths remains a major challenge to ecological theory. Two participants, Ron Etter and Mike Rex, have been invited to write an article Deep-Sea Species Diversity: An Integration of Pattern and Scales for Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics which will benefit from and acknowledge the NCEAS workshop. Participants unanimously felt that our workshop was the most intellectually exhilarating, useful and productive meeting among deep-sea ecologists for many years. The success of the Workshop led to developing a proposal to establish an NCEAS Working Group Deep-Sea Biodiversity: Spatiotemporal Dynamics and Conservation Strategies that was supported, Spring 1997.