Seabed ecosystems and Indigenous livelihoods in Southwest coast of India

Happy new year for 2022! We are pleased to announce that Kumar Sahayaraju, Chevening Scholar, fisherman, and indigenous marine researcher at University of Sussex, UK will be giving a seminar on Tuesday 25th January at 1300 GMT on “Seabed ecosystems and Indigenous livelihoods in Southwest coast of India.”

It is identified by the indigenous fishers that Southeastern Arabian Sea has several biodiversity-rich reefs.  Most of the reefs are rocky, some of them shaped like platforms. There are also sandy reefs and those developed over shipwrecks. Colonies of corals and mussels comprise much of the reef biodiversity, and support livelihoods of more than 300,000 artisanal fishers engaged in sustainable fishing. The local artisanal fishing practices involve a deep understanding of seabed morphology, seasonal variations in weather and sea state, seasonal climatic factors, astronomical objects and marine biodiversity.  Amidst concerns about large-scale biodiversity loss in recent years these reefs are also challenged by anthropological and climate pressures. Much of the biodiversity in these regions is poorly documented in the scientific literature, and yet the Indigenous and local knowledge of many areas is extensive, but often overlooked. The session discusses about the importance and features of seabed ecosystem as a livelihood source of indigenous fishers in South India.

Biography: Kumar Sahayaraju is an emerging Marine Biotechnologist from an indigenous fishing community in South India. Being an Engineer in Biotechnology and a scuba diver, he has the experiences of working with organisations like Friends of Marine Life (FML), an indigenous marine research organisation in Kerala and M.S.Swaminadhan Research Foundation (MSSRF) with a capacity of marine researcher and community youth leader. He is doing sea bed ecosystem studies on the Southwest coast of India and documenting the biodiversity by incorporating the knowledge of the Mukkuva indigenous fishing community in India. As a founding member of Coastal Students Cultural Forum (CSCF), he undertakes marine environment related voluntary activism and promoting ocean literacy with coastal youth and graduate students. He has graduated from University of Stirling with a prestigious UK Chevening Scholarship. He is currently working as research assistant for University of Sussex, UK and volunteering as with Radio Kadal-Community radio for fishermen in Trivandrum. In addition to this, he is volunteering with Climate Science, Ireland on Climate Education in India. He is frequently engaging on climate change, conservation of marine resources and issues of indigenous Fisherfolk in South India.

Please register for seminar and to receive occasional updates below:

Deep-ocean biodiversity hotspots

Today we were joined by Prof. Alex David Rogers who gave a seminar entitled “Exploring and Exploiting Deep-Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots.” Alex is Science director of REV Ocean and Visiting professor at the Department of Zoology at University of Oxford. The deep ocean is a vast, undiscovered ecosystem which has only been explored since the last 150 years since the first modern oceanographic expedition of HMS Challenger. Prof. Alex Rogers discussed three important habitats in the deep ocean- hydrothermal vents, seamounts and the abyssal plains. An important expedition to the Southern Ocean vents provided insights into the biogeographic distribution of vent fauna- helping to identify 11 distinct provinces of vent fauna around the world. Seamounts are underwater mountains and are rich biodiversity hotspots covering 4.7% of the seafloor. Human activity such as deep-sea trawling on seamounts have been found to destroy the rich biodiversity such as coral communities. Furthermore, both seamounts and hydrothermal vents, as well as the abyssal plains have been the focus of a controversial deep sea mining activities in recent years. Over 600 scientists as well as companies have asked for a moratorium on deep sea mining as long term impacts remain poorly understood. Prof. Rogers highlighted the need for fundamental basic knowledge and understanding about deep sea biodiversity. We would like to cordially thank him for an informative and insightful seminar on all things deep!

Thank you to all those who could join from many different time zones and for your questions! This is the last seminar of 2021 due to the upcoming holiday season but see you in 2022!

Exploring and Exploiting Deep-Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots

Seabed Habitats Seminar By Prof. Alex David Rogers

Science Director, REV Ocean

We now understand that the deep sea presents a rich and heterogenous environment which plays an important role in the Earth system. Through my own research expeditions, I will focus on two habitats in the deep sea, hydrothermal vents and seamounts. The former is characterised by a highly endemic fauna adapted to extreme conditions and now recognisable as forming 11 distinct biogeographic provinces. The latter is less well explored but characterised by a rich biodiversity as well as being hotspots of activity in the deep sea. Human activities have already impacted seamounts through impacts from deep-sea bottom trawling and the effects of pollution and climate change are already being felt in the deep sea. However, a controversial new activity, deep-sea mining may affect both hydrothermal vents and seamounts as well as abyssal habitats. Some of the new studies on the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, an area that is of high interest for marine mining are now revealing a more diverse and heterogeneously distributed fauna than previously realised. What this means for management of mining and other human activities in the deep sea will be discussed.

Biography: Professor Alex David Rogers

Science Director, REV Ocean, Norway

Visiting Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Alex is a marine ecologist who is interested in how biodiversity is distributed in the ocean, especially in the deep sea and on tropical coral reefs. He is also interested in human impacts on the ocean and how to manage human activities to mitigate or reduce degradation of marine ecosystems. His work has taken him to the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans and to the Caribbean investigating coral reef ecosystems, seamounts and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Alex has worked with governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations in publicising human impacts, especially those from deep-sea fishing and climate change, and on the development of policy solutions to such problems. He is Scientific Director of REV Ocean a foundation working towards a healthy ocean. Alex recently published the book The Deep: The Hidden Wonders of Our Ocean and How We Can Protect Them Wildfire (2019).

Please register for this webinar zoom link and occasional updates:

Exploiting and conserving deep-sea genetic resources

Pleased to invite you to a seminar by Prof. Louise Allcock, Professor of Zoology at National University of Ireland Galway. Louise Allcock became interested in the deep sea through work on deep-water octopods, and has applied her knowledge of molecular systematics to the challenge of identifying poorly-known deep-water fauna to facilitate a range of interdisciplinary deep-sea research.

Ireland’s deep-sea territory is very extensive, and encompasses a range of habitats including carbonate mounds, and submarine canyons.  The marine animal forest – the corals and sponges – are highly diverse, and vulnerable particularly to fishing.  Over the last few years we have carried out multiple expeditions in Irish deep-sea waters, collecting video footage and biological samples with an ROV.  As well as contributing to systematics studies on corals (particularly sea pens, bamboo corals and black corals), we have investigated the pharmaceutical potential of a selection of coral and sponge species by screening extracts through a range of bioassays, and we have elucidated a range of bioactive new compounds.   We have attempted to model the likelihood of any given coral species producing a bioactive compound based on prior knowledge of bioactivity in various coral taxa.  We are in the process of combining this with species distribution modelling for multiple coral species to generate maps of potential bioactivity hotspots that we can use to promote conservation of these important genetic resources.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday 28th September at 1300 BST and will not be recorded, so please join us by registering for occasional updates below:

Baseline characterization of species assemblages in Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area – Placentia Bay

Today Shreya Nemani and Julia Mackin-McLaughlin, MSc students at the 4DOceans Lab of Memorial University, gave an intriguing and thought-provoking seminar about their coastal benthic habitat mapping work in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada as part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Coastal Environmental Baseline Program. Their work at the 4DOceans lab of the Marine Institute aims to advance understanding of seafloor heterogeneity and assess the spatial and temporal variation in species distribution. They study the spatial distribution of seabed habitats in Placentia Bay. In addition to studying the composition of faunal assemblages, Shreya is also studying their functional composition and diversity of the bay. Concurrent with this research, Julia has modelled the ecological niche of two habitat-forming algal species which support various ecosystem services for the west coast of the bay. We would like to cordially thank both Shreya and Julia for a fascinating talk.

Baseline Characterization of Species Assemblages

Pleased to announce that on Tuesday 31st August at 1300 BST/0930 NDT by Shreya Nemani and Julia Mackin-McLaughlin will be giving the August seminar on “Baseline Characterization of Species Assemblages in An Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Area (EBSA): Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.” Julia and Shreya are MSc students from the 4D Oceans Lab at Memorial University’s Marine Institute, Canada. They study the spatial distribution of seabed habitats in Placentia Bay as part of Canada’s Coastal Environmental Baseline Program. In addition to studying the composition of faunal assemblages, Shreya is also studying their functional composition and diversity of the bay. Concurrent with this research, Julia has modelled the ecological niche of two habitat-forming algal species which support various ecosystem services for the west coast of the bay. Please register below: