ASLO 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting, 22–27 June 2021
Aquatic Sciences for a Sustainable Future: Nurturing Cooperation
Last week (22-27 June 2021) saw the ASLO 2021 Aquatic Sciences Meeting take place online. Following the pressing needs of the society to ensure a sustainable future amidst human-influenced environmental changes, the theme of the meeting was Aquatic Sciences for a Sustainable Future: Nurturing Cooperation.
iAtlantic cold-water coral research featured strongly in the conference programme, with three iAtlantic fellows presenting their work…
The response of cold-water coral ecosystems to environmental stressors is a key component of iAtlantic’s research (see our June 2021 newsletter, page 10). PhD student Cristina Gutiérrez-Zárate presented IEO’s work on the experimental design and aquaria set up to study the ecophysiological response of Dendrophyllia cornigera to multiple anthropogenic stressors under global change scenarios. The aquaria facility is designed to allow the control and manipulation of several water parameters (temperature, carbon dioxide and oxygen concentrations) in order to study their combined effects and interactions on the response of D. cornigera. The experimental design includes two scenarios: current in situ natural temperature, carbon dioxide and oxygen concentration values vs IPCC RCP 8.5 ‘business as usual’ prediction, and allows for the performance of medium- to long-term ecophysiological experiments. The results from the performed experiments will be an important contribution to better understand the vulnerability of deep benthic communities to global change.
iAtlantic’s multiple stressor research also involves investigating the ecosystem response to the impacts of human activities such as deep-sea mining and coastal development. For cold-water corals, the introduction of elevated levels of sediment in the water column could present a significant threat to their wellbeing. Melanie Fähse presented new results from a sedimentation stress experiment on juveniles of the cold-water coral Caryophyllia huinayensis. Melanie explains “Its distribution, often in the shelter of overhangs, suggests a natural sensitivity to sedimentation. But due to anthropogenic influences, sedimentation stresses are likely to increase in their natural habitat in the future. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to look at sedimentation stress on juvenile cold-water corals.” During a three-month ex situ experiment, the animals were exposed to three different sediment concentrations: a natural, a 100-fold and a 1000-fold higher sediment concentration, in order to understand the effects of increased sedimentation stress focusing on their growth rate, behaviour and physiological performance.
Moving away from coral response to changing conditions and focusing on ecosystem functioning, Beatriz Vinha (IEO/NOC) presented her work on deciphering the megabenthic trophic network in the Angolan cold-water coral mounds using stable istotope (δ13C and δ15N) analyses. In her talk, she showed preliminary results from samples collected in 2016 during the M122 (“ANNA”) expedition on board the R/V METEOR. Beatriz explained “With this study we aim to describe, for the first time, the megabenthic trophic guilds and network of the Angolan CWC reefs, to estimate the total number of trophic levels and to compare this largely unexplored area with previous works from other CWC communities”.
Congratulations to all three Fellows on their presentations!