NCEAS Project 2011

Deep-sea biodiversity: Spatiotemporal dynamics and conservation strategies

  • Donald R. Strong
  • Michael A. Rex

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group20th—22nd March 1998Participant List  
Working Group9th—12th May 1999Participant List  
Working Group21st—24th January 2000Participant List  

Members Only Area


Support is requested to form a Working Group on deep-sea biodiversity that builds on our NCEAS Workshop held in the spring of 1996. The objectives of the Working Group are to document patterns of diversity on different spatial and temporal scales and to integrate causes between scales. At small scales the extraordinarily high level of species coexistence in the deep sea remains a major challenge to contemporary ecological theory. Patterns of local diversity will be examined using existing published and unpublished data from precision sampling and in situ experimental research in the context of spatially explicit computer models (using NCEAS facilities) to determine on what scales disturbance and patch dynamics can realistically account for variation in local diversity and species composition. The key obstacle to analyzing and explaining large-scale geographic patterns in the deep sea is that the enormous amount of existing data generated by independent research programs has simply never been compiled into a synthetic workable database. We propose to develop (again using NCEAS facilities) the first large-scale database for the deep North Atlantic to provide a framework for understanding the relationships between ecological processes operating at local, regional and oceanwide scales, as well as the potential historical-evolutionary causes of large-scale patterns. The absence of a consolidated database also has precluded any serious critical effort to formulate conservation and ecosystem management strategies for the deep-sea benthos -one of Earths richest biotas and one for which remediation may be impossible. We plan to translate the empirical findings of the Working Group into a sound scientific framework for conservation protocols and address how these protocols can be incorporated into governmental environmental regulations. This Working Group could alter very fundamentally the way we understand deep-sea ecology, and establish a coordinated international agenda for future research programs. We propose to publish results of the Working Group as a well-integrated book, and to make the database available to the ecological community, and to work directly with NOAA, MMS and EPA to promulgate public policy on deep-sea conservation.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Chase, M. C.; Etter, Ron J.; Rex, Michael A.; Quattro, J. 1998. Bathymetric patterns of genetic variation in a deep-sea protobranch bivalve, Deminucula atacellana. Marine Biology. Vol: 131. Pages 301-308.
Presentations Gooday, Andrew. 1999. Biodiversity of deep-sea foraminifera. European Congress on Protistology. Helsingor, Sweden.
Journal Article Levin, Lisa A.; Etter, Ron J.; Rex, Michael A.; Gooday, Andrew; Smith, Craig; Pineda, Jesus; Stuart, Carol; Hessler, Robert R.; Pawson, Dave. 2001. Environmental influences on regional deep-sea species diversity. Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics. Vol: 32. Pages 51-93.
Report or White Paper Rex, Michael A. 1998. Deep-sea biodiversity: Spatiotemporal dynamics and conservation strategies - Summary. (Online version)
Journal Article Rex, Michael A.; McClain, Craig R.; Johnson, Nicholas A.; Etter, Ron J.; Allen, John A.; Bouchet, Philippe; Waren, Anders. 2005. A source-sink hypothesis for abyssal biodiversity. American Naturalist. Vol: 165. Pages 163-178.
Journal Article Smith, Craig; Maybaum, H.; Baco, A.; Pope, R.; Carpenter, Stephen R.; Yager, P.; Macko, S.; Deming, J. 1998. Sediment community structure around a whale skeleton in the deep Northeast Pacific: Macrofaunal, microbial and bioturbation effects. Deep-Sea Reasearch Part II-Topical Studies in Oceanography. Vol: 45. Pages 335-364.
Journal Article Wilson, George D. F. 1998. Historical influences on deep-sea isopod diversity in the Atlantic Ocean. Deep-Sea Reasearch Part II-Topical Studies in Oceanography. Vol: 45(1-3). Pages 279-301.