• Access to Marine Genetic Resources (MGR): Raising Awareness of Best-Practice Through a New Agreement for Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

      Rabone, M; Harden-Davies, H; Collins, JE; Zajderman, S; Appeltans, W; Droege, G; Brandt, A; Pardo-Lopez, L; Dahlgren, TG; Glover, AG; et al. (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-09-03)
      Better scientific knowledge of the poorly-known deep sea and areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) is key to its conservation, an urgent need in light of increasing environmental pressures. Access to marine genetic resources (MGR) for the biodiversity research community is essential to allow these environments to be better characterised. Negotiations have commenced under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to develop a new treaty to further the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ. It is timely to consider the relevant issues with the development of the treaty underway. Currently uncertainties surround the legal definition of MGR and scope of related benefit-sharing, against a background of regional and global governance gaps in ABNJ. These complications are mirrored in science, with recent major advances in the field of genomics, but variability in handling of the resulting increasing volumes of data. Here, we attempt to define the concept of MGR from a scientific perspective, review current practices for the generation of and access to MGR from ABNJ in the context of relevant regulations, and illustrate the utility of best-practice with a case study. We contribute recommendations with a view to strengthen best-practice in accessibility of MGR, including: funder recognition of the central importance of taxonomy/biodiversity research; support of museums/collections for long-term sample curation; open access to data; usage and further development of globally recognised data standards and platforms; publishing of datasets via open-access, quality controlled and standardised data systems and open access journals; commitment to best-practice workflows; a global registry of cruises; and lastly development of a clearing house to further centralised access to the above. We argue that commitment to best-practice would allow greater sharing of MGR for research and extensive secondary use including conservation and environmental monitoring, and provide an exemplar for access and benefit-sharing (ABS) to inform the biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) process.
    • Characterization of methane-seep communities in a deep-sea area designated for oil and natural gas exploitation off Trinidad and Tobago

      Amon, Diva; Gobin, J; Van Dover, CL; Levin, LA; Marsh, L; Raineault, NA (Frontiers, 2017-10-30)
      Exploration 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.
    • Deep-Sea Debris in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean

      Amon, Diva; Kennedy, BRC; Cantwell, K; Suhre, K; Glickson, D; Shank, TM; Rotjan, RD (Frontiers Media SA, 2020-05-27)
      Marine debris is a growing problem in the world’s deep ocean. The naturally slow biological and chemical processes operating at depth, coupled with the types of materials that are used commercially, suggest that debris is likely to persist in the deep ocean for long periods of time, ranging from hundreds to thousands of years. However, the realized scale of marine debris accumulation in the deep ocean is unknown due to the logistical, technological, and financial constraints related to deep-ocean exploration. Coordinated deep-water exploration from 2015 to 2017 enabled new insights into the status of deep-sea marine debris throughout the central and western Pacific Basin via ROV expeditions conducted onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and RV Falkor. These expeditions included sites in United States protected areas and monuments, other Exclusive Economic Zones, international protected areas, and areas beyond national jurisdiction. Metal, glass, plastic, rubber, cloth, fishing gear, and other marine debris were encountered during 17.5% of the 188 dives from 150 to 6,000 m depth. Correlations were observed between deep-sea debris densities and depth, geological features, and distance from human-settled land. The highest densities occurred off American Samoa and the main Hawaiian Islands. Debris, mostly consisting of fishing gear and plastic, were also observed in most of the large-scale marine protected areas, adding to the growing body of evidence that even deep, remote areas of the ocean are not immune from human impacts. Interactions with and impacts on biological communities were noted, though further study is required to understand the full extent of these impacts. We also discuss potential sources and long-term implications of this debris.
    • Discovery of an extensive deep-sea fossil serpulid reef associated with a cold seep, Santa Monica Basin, California

      Georgieva, M; Paull, CK; Little, CTS; McGann, M; Sahy, D; Condon, D; Lundsten, L; Pewsey, J; Caress, DW; Vrijenhoek, RC (Frontiers Media, 2019-03-19)
      Multibeam bathymetric mapping of the Santa Monica Basin in the eastern Pacific has revealed the existence of a number of elevated bathymetric features, or mounds, harboring cold seep communities. During 2013–2014, mounds at 600 m water depth were observed for the first time and sampled by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s ROV Doc Ricketts. Active cold seeps were found, but surprisingly one of these mounds was characterized by massive deposits composed of fossil serpulid worm tubes (Annelida: Serpulidae) exhibiting various states of mineralization by authigenic carbonate. No living serpulids with equivalent tube morphologies were found at the site; hence the mound was termed “Fossil Hill.” In the present study, the identity of the fossil serpulids and associated fossil community, the ages of fossils and authigenic carbonates, the formation of the fossil serpulid aggregation, and the geological structure of the mound are explored. Results indicate that the tubes were most likely made by a deep-sea serpulid lineage, with radiocarbon dating suggesting that they have a very recent origin during the Late Pleistocene, specifically to the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago. Additional U-Th analyses of authigenic carbonates mostly corroborate the radiocarbon dates, and also indicate that seepage was occurring while the tubes were being formed. We also document similar, older deposits along the approximate trajectory of the San Pedro Basin Fault. We suggest that the serpulid tube facies formed in situ, and that the vast aggregation of these tubes at Fossil Hill is likely due to a combination of optimal physical environmental conditions and chemosynthetic production, which may have been particularly intense as a result of sea-level lowstand during the Last Glacial Maximum.
    • Distributional Patterns of Polychaetes Across the West Antarctic Based on DNA Barcoding and Particle Tracking Analyses

      Brasier, MJ; Harle, J; Wiklund, H; Jeffreys, RM; Linse, K; Ruhl, HA; Glover, AG (2017-11-16)
      Recent genetic investigations have uncovered a high proportion of cryptic species within Antarctic polychaetes. It is likely that these evolved in isolation during periods of glaciation, and it is possible that cryptic populations would have remained geographically restricted from one another occupying different regions of Antarctica. By analysing the distributions of nine morphospecies, (six of which contained potential cryptic species), we find evidence for widespread distributions within the West Antarctic. Around 60% of the cryptic species exhibited sympatric distributions, and at least one cryptic clade was found to be widespread. Additional DNA barcodes from GenBank and morphological records extended the observed range of three species studied here, and indicate potential circum-Antarctic traits. Particle tracking analyses were used to model theoretical dispersal ranges of pelagic larvae. Data from these models suggest that the observed species distributions inferred from genetic similarity could have been established and maintained through the regional oceanographic currents, including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and its coastal counter current. Improved understanding of the distribution of Antarctic fauna is essential for predicting the impacts of environmental change and determining management strategies for the region.
    • Extended Pelagic Life in a Bathybenthic Octopus

      Villanueva, Roger; Laptikhovsky, Vladimir V; Piertney, Stuart B; Fernández-Álvarez, Fernando Ángel; Collins, Martin A; Ablett, J; Escánez, Alejandro (Frontiers Media SA, 2020-11-20)
      Planktonic stages of benthic octopuses can reach relatively large sizes in some species, usually in oceanic, epipelagic waters while living as part of the macroplankton. These young octopuses appear to delay settlement on the seabed for an undetermined period of time that is probably longer than for those octopus paralarvae living in coastal, neritic waters. The reason for this delay is unknown and existing information about their biology is very scarce. Here we report on the presence of juvenile and subadult forms of the bathybenthic octopus Pteroctopus tetracirrhus in oceanic waters of the South and North Atlantic and its association with the pyrosomid species Pyrosoma atlanticum, apparently used by the octopus as a refuge or shelter. The relatively large size of the P. tetracirrhus living in oceanic waters as the individuals reported here, together with the morphological characteristics of this bathybenthic species including its gelatinous body, minute suckers embedded in swollen skin and the deep interbrachial web, indicates that P. tetracirrhus may be considered a model of a transitional octopus species that is colonizing the pelagic environment by avoiding descending to the bathyal benthos. This process seems to occur in the same way as in the supposed origin of the ctenoglossan holopelagic octopods of the families Amphitretidae, Bolitaenidae, and Vitreledonellidae, which have arisen via neoteny from the planktonic paralarval stages of benthic octopuses.
    • Habitat Configuration Alters Herbivory across the Tropical Seascape

      Swindells, KL; Murdoch, RJ; Bazen, WD; Harman, NW; Unsworth, RKF (Frontiers, 2017-02-28)
      There exists increasing evidence that top-down ecological processes such as herbivory are key in controlling marine ecosystems and their community structure. Herbivory has the potential to be altered by numerous environmental and ecological factors that operate at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, one such spatial factor is the influence of the marine landscape. We know little about how ecological processes such as herbivory change throughout the marine landscape and how the effects of these processes cascade. This is because most landscape scale studies observe species richness and abundance patterns. In terrestrial systems the landscape is well documented to influence ecological processes, but empirical evidence of this is limited in marine systems. In tropical seagrass meadows direct herbivory by parrotfish can be readily observed due to the clear hemispherical bite marks they leave on the seagrass. As with herbivory in other systems, this leaf consumption is thought to assist with leaf turnover, positively influencing leaf growth. Changes in its rate and extent are therefore likely to influence the characteristics of the plant. The faunal communities of seagrass meadows alter with respect to changes in the landscape, particularly with respect to connectivity to adjacent habitats. It might therefore be expected that a key ecological process such as herbivory will change with respect to habitat configuration and have cascading impacts upon the status of the seagrass. In the present study we examined indirect evidence of parrotfish grazing throughout the marine landscape and assessed this relative to plant condition. Seagrasses in locations of close proximity to mangroves were found to have double the amount of parrotfish grazing than sites away from mangroves. Evidence of herbivory was also found to be strongly and significantly negatively correlated to the abundance of plant attached epicover. The decreased epicover in the presence of elevated herbivory suggests increased leaf turnover. These results indicate that seagrass may have higher levels of ecosystem resilience in the presence of mangroves. Our research highlights how ecological processes can change throughout the marine landscape with cascade impacts on the resilience of the system.
    • Successful Blue Economy Examples With an Emphasis on International Perspectives

      Wenhai, L; Cusack, C; Baker, M; Tao, W; Mingbao, C; Paige, K; Xiaofan, Z; Levin, L; Escobar, E; Amon, Diva; et al. (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-06-07)
      Careful definition and illustrative case studies are fundamental work in developing a Blue Economy. As blue research expands with the world increasingly understanding its importance, policy makers and research institutions worldwide concerned with ocean and coastal regions are demanding further and improved analysis of the Blue Economy. Particularly, in terms of the management connotation, data access, monitoring, and product development, countries are making decisions according to their own needs. As a consequence of this lack of consensus, further dialogue including this cases analysis of the blue economy is even more necessary. This paper consists of four chapters: (I) Understanding the concept of Blue Economy, (II) Defining Blue economy theoretical cases, (III) Introducing Blue economy application cases and (IV) Providing an outlook for the future. Chapters (II) and (III) summarizes all the case studies into nine aspects, each aiming to represent different aspects of the blue economy. This paper is a result of knowledge and experience collected from across the global ocean observing community, and is only made possible with encouragement, support and help of all members. Despite the blue economy being a relatively new concept, we have demonstrated our promising exploration in a number of areas. We put forward proposals for the development of the blue economy, including shouldering global responsibilities to protect marine ecological environment, strengthening international communication and sharing development achievements, and promoting the establishment of global blue partnerships. However, there is clearly much room for further development in terms of the scope and depth of our collective understanding and analysis.