Understanding the least studied biome on Earth, the deep sea, is a major 21st century challenge. The deep sea supports an important reserve of biodiversity as well as valued biological and mineral resources, which are increasingly being exploited. Knowledge on the early life-history patterns and, in particular population connectivity, of most deep-sea organisms is lacking or very limited, but is essential to understand the maintenance of populations and their resilience to natural and anthropogenic change. I propose to develop an interdisciplinary project that will involve biologists, oceanographers, modellers and end-users (government, industry), to determine population connectivity in New Zealand and Mediterranean deep-sea habitats, and use this information, together with available early-life history, biodiversity and trophic data, in ecological risk assessment models to assess the vulnerability of exploited, or soon to be exploited, deep-sea systems. The end goal is to provide scientific information that will enable the evaluation of management options to reduce or mitigate fishing and mining impacts on benthic and fishery production systems. The project is structured in 3 interconnected objectives: 1) compile early life-history data of selected species; 2) determine population connectivity by developing biophysical models of larval transport; 3) assess vulnerability of the studied communities through the application of risk assessment models. During the outgoing phase in NIWA (New Zealand), I will provide my expertise on early-life histories and I will learn novel modelling tools for the investigation of larval transport and risk assessment. The new skills acquired in NIWA will be applied to available Mediterranean data from the return host group in ICM-CSIC (Spain), where these methods have never been applied before, addressing a major issue of the European Research Area in relation to management of exploited deep-sea systems.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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