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Land-ocean connections
Date:2/27/2012

Scientists from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii Manoa (UHM) and colleagues recently discovered that land-based plant material and coastal macroalgae indirectly support the increased abundances of bottom fish in submarine canyons, like those off the north shore of Moloka'i. Less than a few miles from the shore, these underwater canyons connect to deep river valleys that cut across the landscape of north Moloka'i. The high elevation and forested landscapes along Moloka'i's north shore provide plant material, including decomposing tree trunks, leaves and tons of kukui nuts, which enter the ocean via river valleys and 'pile up' on submarine canyon floors. "In areas surrounded by very low productivity waters, this steady supply of organic matter to the canyons supports relatively high abundances of macro-invertebrates that live associated with the seafloor (either on top or in the top layers within the sediments), such as polychaete worms (related to earth worms), tiny crustaceans (amphipods, tanaids and isopods) and mollusks (like tiny clam- and snail-like creatures). Those invertebrates in turn serve as food for many fish species that live and feed near the seafloor," says Fabio De Leo, lead author and PhD candidate at the UHM Department of Oceanography. "Areas surveyed outside the canyons showed very little contribution of plant and macroalgae material, providing support for our hypothesis that this material is really being channeled and accumulates mostly in the steep topography of the submarine canyons (i.e., a 'canyon effect')," completes De Leo.

De Leo, his PhD advisor (Dr. Craig Smith), colleagues from SOEST (Dr. Jeff Drazen), from the Hawaii Pacific University (Dr. Eric Vetter), and from the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Dr. Ashley Rowden) used manned submersibles operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory to perform numerous video transects
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Contact: Marcie Grabowski
mworkman@hawaii.edu
808-956-3151
University of Hawaii ‑ SOEST
Source:Eurekalert  

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