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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

Report from the Pole-to-Pole MBON & GOOS & OBIS workshop "Marine Biodiversity - from the Sea to the Cloud"

The Pole to Pole Marine Biodiversity Observation Network of the Americas (P2P MBON) gathered researchers and managers from Canada to Patagonia and experts from other parts of the world, at the Centro de Biologia Marinha da Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil (CEBIMar/USP) during the 2018 AmeriGEOSS Week (August 6-10, 2018). The main objective of the workshop was to promote the convergence on strategies for biodiversity monitoring and conservation in rocky intertidal areas and sandy beaches. This process continues to build the foundations of the P2P MBON network in the GEO context, in a partnership between various GEO elements (GEO BON/MBON, AmeriGEOSS, Blue Planet) and OBIS.

September 24, 2018 - Eduardo KleinOBIS training MBON GOOS

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Use cases

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

High species richness in the Central Indo-Pacific explained by time and many colonization events

fish diversity Biogeography Evolution

The biodiversity of most marine organisms peaks in the Central Indo-Pacific region and declines with distance from this hotspot. Although this striking pattern has fascinated researchers for over 60 years, its origins have remained unclear. In a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in October 2018, Miller et al. explored how the timing and rates of fundamental evolutionary processes—speciation, extinction, and colonization events—have jointly shaped differences in regional species richness in percomorph fishes.

To investigate this question, the researchers first delineated eight major marine regions based on prior biogeographic studies encompassing the world’s warm and cold oceans. The geographic distributions of over 12,000 marine species, including 72% of all known marine fishes, were determined using occurrence data compiled from OBIS, supplemented with and validated against data from other repositories (e.g. FishBase). These distributional data were combined with an extensive time-calibrated phylogeny to reconstruct the history of colonization events and to quantify diversification (speciation minus extinction) rates in these regions. The researchers then tested whether present-day species richness patterns were associated with (i) the number of colonizations, (ii) the age of colonizations, or (iii) diversification rates.

The researchers found that a synergy between the timing and frequency at which fish lineages colonized marine regions was the key to explaining the discrepancies in present-day species richness. Specifically, regions with higher “time-for-speciation” were found to have higher species richness. That is, there has been more time for lineages to diversify in situ and build up richness as a result of relatively early colonization. This process occurred repeatedly among independent lineages in the Central Indo-Pacific, which experienced many colonizations from 34 to 5.3 million years ago enabling more species richness to build up over time in comparison to other warm oceans. Diversification rates, however, were highest in high-latitude cold oceans and comparable among warm oceans, and were thus uncoupled from present-day species richness patterns.

This study not only provides an explanation for the high diversity of the Central Indo-Pacific region compared to other marine regions, but also adds to the growing body of work illustrating that both the timing and rates of macroevolutionary processes must be considered in order to explain large-scale biodiversity patterns. Importantly, the results of this study reflect the geologic history of the global oceans, and therefore may be broadly applicable to other groups of organisms as well. This study is also an example of how the wealth of biodiversity data made available through databases such as OBIS, coupled with modern analytical techniques, can help provide new insights into long-standing questions in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Reference: Miller, EC, Hayashi, KT, Song, D, Wiens, JJ. 2018. Explaining the ocean’s richest biodiversity hotspot and global patterns of fish diversity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285, 20181314. doi:10.1098/rspb.2018.1314

OBIS data reveals that climate change will exacerbate the impact of historical overfishing on an iconic Caribbean reef fish

Grouper Conservation efforts Climate Change

The Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is an endangered fish species whose population has been reduced to a fraction of its historical abundance due to overfishing at spawning aggregation sites. Like many other groupers and snappers, Nassau Groupers solely reproduces during spawning aggregations where hundreds-to-thousands of fish migrate to specific sites to engage in spawning. Since Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations recur each year at predictable times linked to the phase of the moon, they are an easy target for fishermen once the location of an aggregation site has been identified. As a result, many Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation sites have been extirpated throughout the Greater Caribbean region. While some populations are recovering due to conservation, the management of this species has not yet considered how climate change could impact Nassau Grouper.

This topic was explored in a recently published paper appearing in the journal Diversity and Distributions. Here researchers from East Carolina University and the University of Texas at Austin utilized data from OBIS and a database of spawning aggregation sites to generate separate species distribution models for non-spawning adult Nassau Grouper and spawning fishes. While both of these life history stages were affected by temperature and hydrodynamic features, preferred habitat conditions differed by life history stage. In particular, spawning aggregations were characterized by a narrower thermal niche and occurred at cooler temperatures. This suggests that the spawning life stage may form a bottleneck constraining how this species responds to climate change. Indeed, under a business-as-usual climate change scenario, spawning aggregations were projected to experience an 82% decline in available habitat by the end of the 21st century. In contrast, habitats used by non-spawning adult Nassau Grouper were projected to undergo a comparatively smaller 46% decline. Even under the RCP 2.6 climate change scenario, which includes implementation of strong climate change mitigation measures, spawning habitats for Nassau Grouper are projected to decline by 30%. These decreases in habitat availability were accompanied by northward shifts in Nassau Grouper distribution and a shortening of the spawning season.</p>

Overall, this study indicates that many current-day conservation measures meant to protect Nassau Grouper may need to be adjusted to provide adequate future protection for this species. For example, the dates of seasonal closures at spawning aggregation sites will need to be adjusted to account for changes in the seasonality of spawning. Similarly, this paper tentatively identifies a few regions that could serve as climate change refugia for Nassau Grouper, which may deserve to be the focus of future conservation efforts.</p>

Reference: Asch, R.G.; Erisman, B. (2018). Spawning aggregations act as a bottleneck influencing climate change impacts on a critically endangered reef fish. Diversity Distrib. Online first. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ddi.12809.

Photo credit: Alfredo Barroso Ruiz

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