A free online portal is providing deep-sea researchers and managers with new tools for finding and accessing information on the biological communities that live on seamounts (undersea mountains), facilitating improved management of seamount resources, and conservation of seamount habitat.
Since 2005, SeamountsOnline (http://seamounts.sdsc.edu/) has been collecting data on species that have been recorded from seamounts all over world, and making data available through the online portal. Now, through a partnership between the San Diego Supercomputer Center (http://www.sdsc.edu/) and the Global Census of Marine Life on Seamounts (CenSeam; http://censeam.niwa.co.nz), the portal has been expanded to include new spatial searching tools.
With its increased usability and practical applications the new SeamountsOnline interface will be demonstrated at the upcoming Seamounts '09 meeting, an international workshop for seamount specialists, from March 19-21st at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA. New search tools will be showcased which include users being able to generate taxonomic trees; and seamount experts will have the opportunity to road test SeamountsOnline for themselves. Through a map interface, users are able to select seamounts of interest, or see the distribution of taxa globally. Information can be searched by management boundaries, such as Exclusive Economic Zones, and biogeographic regions, such as Longhurst Provinces, and seamount summit depth – an important criterion for planning future expeditions or assessing seamounts within fishable depths.
Says portal manager Dr Karen Stocks:
"To understand the big picture for seamounts and their role in the biology of the ocean, you simply have to look across results from the many different studies being done globally. SeamountsOnline is developing the first one-stop shop for data on the biology of seamounts - a place where researchers and managers can find the information they need, and where international scientists can share what they know."
Valuable expedition data from seamounts have been published in many papers and reports, and in the data collections of multiple natural history museums and research institutions. These data are often difficult to find, and frequently only available in print form. SeamountsOnline is bringing this data together for the first time in one convenient, easily searchable web-based source, ultimately enabling researchers, managers, and conservationists alike to obtain a greater understanding of seamount ecosystems.
CenSeam (a global census of marine life on seamounts) (http://censeam.niwa.co.nz)
Seamounts are ubiquitous features of the world's underwater topography and may play an important role in patterns of marine biogeography, potentially supporting high biodiversity and unique biological communities. Seamounts are often highly productive ecosystems, and may act as feeding grounds for fishes, marine mammals and seabirds. They are targeted for resource extraction such as fisheries and mining, but are ecologically vulnerable to such exploitation. At a global scale their biodiversity is poorly known with relatively few (< 200 of an estimated 100 000) seamounts having been studied in any detail.
CenSeam, as part of the Census of Marine life, is prioritizing, integrating, expanding, and facilitating seamount research efforts in order to significantly reduce the unknown and build towards a global understanding of seamount ecosystems. The major goals of CenSeam are: (1) to co-ordinate and expand both existing and planned research (2) to foster new field expeditions to priority areas (3) to synthesize and analyze existing data and (4) to communicate the findings through public education and outreach.
Census of Marine Life (www.coml.org)
The Census of Marine Life is a global network of researchers in more than 80 nations engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of life in the oceans. The world's first comprehensive Census of Marine Life - past, present, and future - will be released in 2010. The Census of Marine Life is supported by private sources and government agencies the world over. A list of all supporters is online at www.comlsecretariat.org/Dev2Go.web?id=302846&rnd=27348.
San Diego Super Computer Center
SDSC's mission is to transform science and society at the University of California San Diego and across the nation through world-leading cyberinfrastructure innovation, development, and expertise. Since its founding in 1985, SDSC has earned a reputation as a leading resource for data-intensive research and expertise, involving a broad range of studies ranging from the inner workings of the human body to the outer reaches of space.
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