The state of biodiversity in the ocean is a major societal concern as it is currently experiencing multiple stressors associated with anthropogenic activities and climate change. While marine ecosystems in populated coastal zones are altered, it is not clear how remote systems respond to these stressors. MECOPO focuses on the benthic mesophotic ((attached to the substrate at 60 – 350 m depth) communities, an understudied key component of marine biodiversity in oceanic islands and seamounts.
Ariadna and her team will characterize and compare these communities on oceanic islands and surrounding seamounts in two South East Pacific areas: Easter Island (EI) and Desventuradas Islands (DI). They will first create a database of species inhabiting the selected islands. The data will then be interpreted, in light of current ecological theories and ocean model simulations, in order to describe, for the first time, biological connections between the different seamounts.
This will help identify which areas are likely to be sensitive to anthropogenic changes (e.g., potential modification in oceanographic current that modify patterns of larval dispersion, destruction of stepping stones habitats for settlement and reproduction) and the effects they could have on the communities (e.g., decrease of biodiversity, appearance of new species, migration to deeper/shallower areas or even extinction of species).
This database will be a critical asset for management decisions for these highly vulnerable and relatively preserved ecosystems, providing, in particular, science-based material for discussing the creation of new Marine Protected Areas.