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The Natural History Museum is an international leader in the study of the natural world. Our science describes the diversity of nature, promotes an understanding of its past, and supports the anticipation and management of the impact of human activity on the environment.
The Museum's repository provides free access to publications produced by more than 300 scientists working here. Researchers at the Museum study a diverse range of issues, including threats to Earth's biodiversity, the maintenance of delicate ecosystems, environmental pollution and disease. The accessible repository showcases this broad research output.
The repository was launched in 2016 with an initially modest number of journal publications in its database. It now includes book chapters and blogs from Museum scientists.
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Insights into the abundance and diversity of abyssal megafauna in a polymetallic-nodule region in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton ZoneThere is growing interest in mining polymetallic nodules in the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific. Nonetheless, benthic communities in this region remain poorly known. The ABYSSLINE Project is conducting benthic biological baseline surveys for the UK Seabed Resources Ltd. exploration contract area (UK-1) in the CCZ. Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle, we surveyed megafauna at four sites within a 900 km2 stratum in the UK-1 contract area, and at a site ~250 km east of the UK-1 area, allowing us to make the first estimates of abundance and diversity. We distinguished 170 morphotypes within the UK-1 contract area but species-richness estimators suggest this could be as high as 229. Megafaunal abundance averaged 1.48 ind. m−2. Seven of 12 collected metazoan species were new to science, and four belonged to new genera. Approximately half of the morphotypes occurred only on polymetallic nodules. There were weak, but statistically significant, positive correlations between megafaunal and nodule abundance. Eastern-CCZ megafaunal diversity is high relative to two abyssal datasets from other regions, however comparisons with CCZ and DISCOL datasets are problematic given the lack of standardised methods and taxonomy. We postulate that CCZ megafaunal diversity is driven in part by habitat heterogeneity.
Megafauna of the UKSRL exploration contract area and eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean: EchinodermataBackground: There is growing interest in mining polymetallic nodules from the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Despite being the focus of environmental studies for decades, the benthic megafauna of the CCZ remain poorly known. In order to predict and manage the environmental impacts of mining in the CCZ, baseline knowledge of the megafauna is essential. The ABYSSLINE Project has conducted benthic biological baseline surveys in the UK Seabed Resources Ltd polymetallic-nodule exploration contract area (UK-1). Prior to these research cruises in 2013 and 2015, no biological studies had been done in this area of the eastern CCZ. New information: Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, the megafauna within the UKSRL exploration contract area (UK-1) and at a site ~250 km east of the UK-1 area were surveyed, allowing us to make the first estimates of megafaunal morphospecies richness from the imagery collected. Here, we present an atlas of the abyssal echinoderm megafauna observed and collected during the ABYSSLINE cruises to the UK-1 polymetallic-nodule exploration contract area in the CCZ. There appear to be at least 62 distinct morphospecies (13 Asteroidea, 5 Crinoidea, 9 Echinoidea, 29 Holothuroidea and 6 Ophiuroidea) identified mostly by imagery but also using molecular barcoding for a limited number of animals that were collected. This atlas will aid the synthesis of megafaunal presence/absence data collected by contractors, scientists and other stakeholders undertaking work in the CCZ, ultimately helping to decipher the biogeography of the megafauna in this threatened habitat.
Characterization of methane-seep communities in a deep-sea area designated for oil and natural gas exploitation off Trinidad and TobagoExploration of the deep ocean (>200 m) is taking on added importance as human development encroaches. Despite increasing oil and natural gas exploration and exploitation, the deep ocean of Trinidad and Tobago is almost entirely unknown. The only scientific team to image the deep seafloor within the Trinidad and Tobago Exclusive Economic Zone was from IFREMER in the 1980s. That exploration led to the discovery of the El Pilar methane seeps and associated chemosynthetic communities on the accretionary prism to the east of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2014, the E/V Nautilus, in collaboration with local scientists, visited two previously sampled as well as two unexplored areas of the El Pilar site between 998 and 1,629 m depth using remotely operated vehicles. Eighty-three megafaunal morphospecies from extensive chemosynthetic communities surrounding active methane seepage were observed at four sites. These communities were dominated by megafaunal invertebrates including mussels (Bathymodiolus childressi), shrimp (Alvinocaris cf. muricola), Lamellibrachia sp. 2 tubeworms, and Pachycara caribbaeum. Adjacent to areas of active seepage was an ecotone of suspension feeders including Haplosclerida sponges, stylasterids and Neovermilia serpulids on authigenic carbonates. Beyond this were large Bathymodiolus shell middens. Finally there was either a zone of sparse octocorals and other non-chemosynthetic species likely benefiting from the carbonate substratum and enriched production within the seep habitat, or sedimented inactive areas. This paper highlights these ecologically significant areas and increases the knowledge of the biodiversity of the Trinidad and Tobago deep ocean. Because methane seepage and chemosynthetic communities are related to the presence of extractable oil and gas resources, development of best practices for the conservation of biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago waters within the context of energy extraction is critical. Potential impacts on benthic communities during oil and gas activities will likely be long lasting and include physical disturbance during drilling among others. Recommendations for the stewardship of these widespread habitats include: (1) seeking international cooperation; (2) holding wider stakeholder discussions; (3) adopting stringent environmental regulations; and (4) increasing deep-sea research to gather crucial baseline data in order to conduct appropriate marine spatial planning with the creation of marine protected areas.
ICDP workshop on the Lake Tanganyika Scientific Drilling Project: a late Miocene–present record of climate, rifting, and ecosystem evolution from the world's oldest tropical lakeThe Neogene and Quaternary are characterized by enormous changes in global climate and environments, including global cooling and the establishment of northern high-latitude glaciers. These changes reshaped global ecosystems, including the emergence of tropical dry forests and savannahs that are found in Africa today, which in turn may have influenced the evolution of humans and their ancestors. However, despite decades of research we lack long, continuous, well-resolved records of tropical climate, ecosystem changes, and surface processes necessary to understand their interactions and influences on evolutionary processes. Lake Tanganyika, Africa, contains the most continuous, long continental climate record from the mid-Miocene (∼10 Ma) to the present anywhere in the tropics and has long been recognized as a top-priority site for scientific drilling. The lake is surrounded by the Miombo woodlands, part of the largest dry tropical biome on Earth. Lake Tanganyika also harbors incredibly diverse endemic biota and an entirely unexplored deep microbial biosphere, and it provides textbook examples of rift segmentation, fault behavior, and associated surface processes. To evaluate the interdisciplinary scientific opportunities that an ICDP drilling program at Lake Tanganyika could offer, more than 70 scientists representing 12 countries and a variety of scientific disciplines met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in June 2019. The team developed key research objectives in basin evolution, source-to-sink sedimentology, organismal evolution, geomicrobiology, paleoclimatology, paleolimnology, terrestrial paleoecology, paleoanthropology, and geochronology to be addressed through scientific drilling on Lake Tanganyika. They also identified drilling targets and strategies, logistical challenges, and education and capacity building programs to be carried out through the project. Participants concluded that a drilling program at Lake Tanganyika would produce the first continuous Miocene–present record from the tropics, transforming our understanding of global environmental change, the environmental context of human origins in Africa, and providing a detailed window into the dynamics, tempo and mode of biological diversification and adaptive radiations.