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News

Report of the 7th Session of the OBIS steering group, 12-16 November 2018, Oostende, Belgium

36 participants from 24 countries representing 24 OBIS nodes attended the 7th OBIS steering group meeting in Oostende (Belgium). The OBIS Steering Group made 35 recommendations and decisions, and defined 48 action items in an ambitious 2019 work plan. The meeting report is now available online.

November 22, 2018 - OBISOBIS Steering Group Meeting report

We are hiring! UNESCO contract for an OBIS IT consultant

We're hiring a 6-month OBIS IT consultant to develop an online data entry and editing tool that will make it easier to publish (a small number of incidental) observations to OBIS, allowing individual researchers to report important observations from under-represented areas and time periods and underreported species. Application deadline 15 November 2018

October 24, 2018 - OBISOBIS vacancy consultancy

Kenya joins the OBIS network

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) joined the OBIS network as the national OBIS node in Kenya.

October 10, 2018 - OBISKenya OBIS node

Rae Sita Pratiwi joined the OBIS secretariat to support the development of the OBIS-Indonesia node

We welcome Rae Sita Pratiwi as a UNESCO volunteer at the IOC Project Office for IODE, Oostende. During the next 6 months, she will support us with the development of a national OBIS node hosted at LIPI's Research Centre for Oceanography in Indonesia

October 02, 2018 - iOBISOBIS volunteer Indonesia

OTGA/INIOAS/OBIS Training took place in Iran, 23-26 September 2018

A training course under the auspices of the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) on Marine Biogeographic Data processing using OBIS was organized by the IOC of UNESCO and the Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science (INIOAS) at INIOAS, I.R.IRAN which also hosts the OBIS node for the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman (PEGO-OBIS node).

October 02, 2018 - Abdolvahab MaghsoudlousOBIS training Iran

Indonesia joins the OBIS network through LIPI's Research Centre for Oceanography

The Research Centre for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences joined the OBIS network as the OBIS node in Indonesia.

October 02, 2018 - OBISIndonesia OBIS node

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Use cases

Microscopic “body-snatchers” and “planktonic-greenhouses” are ubiquitous with contrasting biogeographies and abundance in our oceans

Biogeography mixotrophs plankton

Organisms across all environments are typically assigned to one of the two categories: plants or animals. This binary classification, however, misrepresents the nature of the base of marine food webs, formed by plankton. Plankton are responsible for ~50% of the primary production in the planet and play a core role within marine trophodynamics. Among the protist plankton, many species are in fact mixotrophs.

Mixotrophy is the combination of photo-autotrophy and phago-heterotrophy within a single cell. Certain mixotrophic protists have an innate capacity for photosynthesis (the constitutive mixotrophs, CMs), while others acquire phototrophic capability from their prey (the non-constitutive mixotrophs, NCMs). NCMs can be classified into different functional forms based on how they acquire phototrophic capability. For instance, the microscopic “body-snatchers” (e.g., ciliates) can steal plastids from their prey while the “planktonic-greenhouses” (e.g., Rhizaria) enslave entire populations of their prey as endosymbionts. For the first time, a team of researchers have investigated the biogeography of these different forms of NCMs.

The study revealed that NCMs are ubiquitous and abundant in the global oceans. In addition, it showed that nearly half of what marine scientists have been labelling as “microzooplankton” (i.e., strictly heterotrophic plankton) are in reality NCMs. The data from OBIS played a key role in these investigations. Interrogation of over 100,000 OBIS distribution records and published literature across the global oceans showed different NCM functional forms to have different spatio-temporal distributions. The “body-snatchers” dominate high-biomass areas such as coastal seas while the “planktonic-greenhouses” are particularly dominant in oligotrophic open seas. Seasonally, within temperate seas, strict heterotrophic forms dominate during winter, the “planktonic-greenhouses” over spring and autumn, while the “body-snatchers” rule these waters during summer.

The findings from this study significantly changes the understanding of the functioning of the marine food web and thence the trophodynamics and the biogeochemical cycles in the oceans. This study shows that it is time to go beyond the binary ‘plant-animal’ classification and integrate the different forms of mixotrophy within marine ecology research.

Reference: Leles, S.G., Mitra, A., Flynn, K.J., Stoecker, D.K., Hansen, P.J., Calbet, A., McManus, G.B., Sanders, R.W., Caron, D.A., Not, F., Hallegraeff, G.M., Pitta, P., Raven, J.A., Johnson, M.D., Glibert, P.M., and Våge, S. (2017). Oceanic protists with different forms of acquired phototrophy display contrasting biogeographies and abundance. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284, 20170664. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.0664

Coastal benthic biogeographic regions are stable across the millennia

Biogeography fossil data

Marine biogeographic regions emerge in both recent times and the geological past but their drivers are puzzling. Compared to terrestrial settings, groupings of species distributions are difficult to delineate in the modern ocean. However, despite inferior global coverage and data quantity, paleontologists have long argued that the fossil record provides ample evidence to discriminate between past faunal provinces. Previously, a ubiquitously applicable, objective method to define biogeographic structuring has been lacking. Yet, if we are to understand how the spatial organization of life responds to changes of environmental factors, a robust methodology is required that uses nothing else but taxon occurrence data.

By applying cluster recognition methods based on network theory, researchers confirmed that modern and the near past global ecosystem, conserved in the fossil record, feature highly similar biogeographic structures, based solely on data from OBIS and the Paleobiology Database. This congruence is remarkable, the authors note, given the known climatic variations of the past ten million years. It demonstrates not only the robustness of the methods to sampling effort and dataset characteristics, but also suggested the long-term stability of the forces that govern biogeographic patterns on a global scale. Freeing the definition of biogeographic units from abiotic information also allowed the assessment of the influencing environmental parameters, such as temperature, nutrient input or salinity, without circular reasoning. The authors concluded that the distribution of landmasses and seawater temperature heterogeneities are the main drivers of shallow marine benthic bioregionalization, the former providing longitudinal separation, and the latter providing latitudinal separation. The authors reproduced their results separately for several higher taxonomic groups, finding good agreement between them, and showcasing the flexibility of their approach.

Full reference: Kocsis, Á. T., Reddin, C. J., & Kiessling, W. (2018). The stability of coastal benthic biogeography over the last 10 million years. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 27(9), 1106–1120. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12771

Mapping knowledge gaps in marine diversity reveals a latitudinal gradient of missing species richness

species diversity Biogeography

A reliable description of any spatial pattern in species richness requires accurate knowledge about species geographical distribution. However, sampling bias may generate artefactual absences within species range and compromise our capacity to describe biodiversity patterns. In a study published in Nature Communications in November 2018, researchers from Federal University of Goiás explored this topic by analyzing more than 3 million occurrence records from OBIS and other public datasets to identify missing occurrences (gaps) across species latitudinal range. The records included the spatial distribution of almost 35,000 marine species varying from copepods to sharks.

The researchers found a latitudinal gradient of species absence peaking near the equator, a pattern observed in both shallow and deep waters. The tropical peak in missing species richness coincides with the dip in species diversity that characterizes the recently suggested bimodality of the marine realm. This result suggests that spatial gaps in species distribution are the main cause of the bimodal pattern of marine diversity. The tropical gap in species distribution was strongly associated with the poor inventory completeness and reduced sampling effort at low latitudes, indicating a sampling bias effect. However, the authors concluded that only the increasing sampling effort at low latitudes will reveal if the absence of species in the tropics, and the consequent dip in species richness, are indeed a sampling artefact or if it may be a natural phenomenon.

Reference: Menegotto A. and Rangel T.F. Mapping knowledge gaps in marine diversity reveals a latitudinal gradient of missing species richness. Nature Communications, 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07217-7

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