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Expeditions reveal gulf of California's deep sea secrets, as well as human imprints
Date:12/3/2008

l park near the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. Here again the researchers documented a "biodiversity hotspot" with thriving fish populations and a rich mix of sea life in the absence of human environmental pressures. They witnessed large tiger sharks, now a rarity in Baja California.

Erisman and Aburto-Oropeza say Las Animas and Cabo Pulmo, contrasted by the relatively depleted sea life witnessed at locations such as El Bajo, are examples of "shifting baselines," the concept promoted by Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, and others. The term describes the deterioration of standards and failing to realize how much has changed over years and generations.

"At Las Animas and Cabo Pulmo, we have seen that if you leave areas without human pressure, the elements of the environment will allow them to rebound to a previous, more healthy ecosystem state," said Aburto-Oropeza.

"These expeditions far exceeded what we expected," said Erisman. "From the first dive, the results escalated in success as I witnessed a hundred times more organisms than I expected. It was amazing and we are excited about the possibilities."

The custom-built DeepSee submersible, owned by expedition co-leader Steve Drogin, a San Diego photographer and marine explorer, allowed the scientists to survey marine life with its 360-degree-view glass dome. The researchers concentrated on marine life between 50 and 300 meters (164 and 984 feet), although DeepSee is capable of reaching 475 meters (1,500 feet).

Another startling discovery came in September on a separate expedition when Drogin and his colleagues discovered a hydrothermal vent just south of Loreto at a depth of 450 feet. Drogin reported dramatic views around the vent and water temperatures reaching 266 Fahrenheit degrees (130 degrees Celsius).

"It felt to me like walking into the middle of a forest fire, with flames shooting out. It was ve
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Contact: Mario Aguilera or Annie Reisewitz
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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