Loss of deep-sea species could endanger the future of the oceans

December 28th, 2007 - 12:39 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 28 (ANI): A new study by biologists has indicated that the health of the oceans of the world is dependent upon the number of species living there, thus establishing the fact that loss of deep-sea species could endanger the future of the oceans.

For the first time, we have demonstrated that deep-sea ecosystem functioning is closely dependent upon the number of species inhabiting the ocean floor, said Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy, who was part of the research.

This shows that we need to preserve biodiversity, and especially deep-sea biodiversity, because otherwise the negative consequences could be unprecedented. We must care about species that are far from us and (essentially) invisible, he added.

Despite the fact that the deep sea covers 65% of the Earth and is by far the most important ecosystem for the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus of the biosphere, the data needed to evaluate the consequences of biodiversity loss on the ocean floor had been completely lacking.

For the new study, the research team examined the biodiversity of nematode worms and several independent indicators of ecosystem functioning and efficiency at 116 deep-sea sites.

Nematodes are the most abundant animals on earth and account for more than 90% of all life at the bottom of the sea. Earlier studies have also suggested that nematode diversity is a good proxy for the diversity of other deep-sea species.

The team found that sites with a higher diversity of nematodes support exponentially higher rates of ecosystem processes and an increased efficiency with which those processes are performed.

Efficiency reflects the ability of an ecosystem to exploit the available energy in the form of food sources, said the researchers. Our results suggest that a higher biodiversity can enhance the ability of deep-sea benthic systems to perform the key biological and biogeochemical processes that are crucial for their sustainable functioning, they added.

According to the study, deep-sea ecosystems provide biomass, bioactive molecules, oil, gas, climate regulation, nutrient regeneration and supply to the upper ocean.

Our results suggest that the conservation of deep-sea biodiversity can be crucial for the sustainability of the functions of the largest ecosystem on the planet, said the researchers. (ANI)

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