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SCIENCE

International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium comes to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time

Monday 3 December 2012, 11:45AM
By Te Papa
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WELLINGTON CITY

Experts and enthusiasts involved in deep-sea research will meet at Te Papa in Wellington next week for the 13th International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium – the first time this international conference has come to the Southern Hemisphere.
The symposium provides the opportunity for members of the international deep-sea science community to discuss and present their latest research results. Over 200 participants from over 27 countries will attend.

NIWA’s Ashley Rowden, convenor of the symposium, says, “The symposium will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work that New Zealand researchers are doing to find out more about life in the deep sea, and how seabed resources may be exploited in the future while protecting this biodiversity.”

Hosted by NIWA, the symposium has attracted leaders in deep-sea research from around the globe. Also at the meeting will be environmental managers from government departments, mining and fishing industry representatives and non-governmental organisations.

The symposium programme includes presentations on biodiversity, human impacts and management in the deep sea. Presentations also address the evolution, reproduction, behaviour and the dispersal of deep-sea invertebrates and fish.

Presentations include those of international significance, as well as those focused on New Zealand issues.

Global-focused highlights for the symposium:

The Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 resulted in one of the world’s largest accidental oil spills. Charles Fisher, of Pennsylvanian State University, USA, will present on the impact of the oil spill on deepwater coral gardens.

Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group and its partners, aims to establish a worldwide system of very large, highly protected marine reserves where fishing and other extractive activities are prohibited. Robert Mazurek, of Pew, will speak on the need for conservation of deep-sea areas at very large scales and the opportunity these areas offer as scientific reference sites.

Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. The Convention established five key goals for 2020.

Telmo Morato, of the University of the Azores, Portugal, will speak about the development of an assessment framework that may represent an important tool to mitigate seamount biodiversity loss and help achieve the 2020 goals of the Convention.

Model simulations of global climate change predict major reductions in the biomass of seabed organisms. Dan Jones, of the National Oceanography Centre, UK, will be discussing the likely ramifications of climate change that may lead to widespread change in seabed ecosystems and the functions they provide.

Energy limitation in the deep sea impacts ecological and evolutionary processes from the individual to the ecosystem. Craig McClain, of National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, USA, presents a framework to understand and link energetics across multiple scales of biological organisation in the deep sea.

New Zealand-focused highlights for the symposium:

New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has areas that are up to 10,000 metres deep. Little is known about these extreme habitats. Alan Jamieson, of the University of Aberdeen, will talk about scavenging animals that can be found in the deepest part of New Zealand’s EEZ.

NIWA’s Malcolm Clark presents a report that discusses whether the creation of closed areas for the protection of seabed communities of seamounts on the Chatham Rise, put in place after the impact of fishing, has been effective.

Recent work has shown that populations of some seabed species in New Zealand’s deep sea are not genetically similar. Ellie Bors, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, USA, will be talking about the implications of this finding for the re-design of marine protected areas in the New Zealand region.

In the past, orange roughy has been overfished in New Zealand waters. NIWA’s Matt Dunn argues that, despite this, some fisheries have the potential to be operated in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. He asks if some orange roughy fisheries could achieve Marine Stewardship Certification.

A study carried out on the Chatham Rise shows food for seabed animals not only falls from the surface but that a significant amount of food particles are also delivered to them horizontally. NIWA’s Scott Nodder will present a report on particle fluxes and implications for the energy requirements of deep-ocean benthic communities.

During the week of the symposium, the Kermadec Voices Art Exhibition, sponsored by the Pew Environment Group, will also be held at the City Gallery Wellington.