They challenge the mountain ranges of the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas in size yet surprisingly little is known about seamounts, the vast mountains hidden under the world's oceans. Now in a special issue of Marine Ecology scientists uncover the mystery of life on these submerged mountain ranges and reveal why these under studied ecosystems are under threat.
The bathymetry of our oceans is now resolved at a scale and detail unimaginable by early pioneers and recent estimates suggest that, globally, there may be up to 100,000 seamounts, yet despite best efforts less than 300 have been well studied. Recognising this scarcity of knowledge provided the motivation CenSeam, a seamount-focused field within the Census of Marine Life which commenced in 2005.
"The field of seamount ecology is rife with ecological paradigms, many of which have already become cemented in the scientific literature and in the minds of advocates for seamount protection," said Dr Ashley Rowden, one of the principal investigators of CenSeam. "Together, these paradigms have created a widely held view of seamounts as unique environments, hotspots of biodiversity with fragile ecosystems of exceptional ecological worth."
The special issue puts major paradigms in seamount ecology under the microscope to assess their status against the weight of existing evidence to date, and against the backdrop of the latest findings.
Researchers challenged the theory that seamounts act as hotspots of species richness, the weight of evidence now suggests that seamounts may have comparable levels of diversity and endemism to continental margins. However, it appears that their ecological communities are distinct in structure, and of higher biomass than neighbouring continental margins.
The geographical differences between seamount communities have suggested limited larval dispersal, local speciation, geographic isolation, or a combination of all these
|Contact: Ben Norman|