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Abyssal benthic biological sampling

CeDAMar DATABASE FOR BENTHIC BIOLOGICAL SAMPLING ON THE ABYSSAL PLAINS IN THE WORLD OCEAN compiled by Carol T. Stuart

The primary objective for developing a CeDAMar database is to generate a map of biological abyssal sampling stations in the World Ocean. Over fifty percent of the World Ocean’s Seafloor is abyssal (4000-6000 m) (Menard and Smith, 1966), but there is no comprehensive synthesis of abyssal sampling.  A map will show the extent of sampling that has been conducted in abyssal plains, which will provide the information needed to synthesize abyssal biogeography, and for planning future sampling expeditions. This database is an initial effort to gather information to incorporate into a relational database under the auspices of CeDAMar. 

 

CeDAMar DATABASE FOR BENTHIC BIOLOGICAL SAMPLING ON THE ABYSSAL PLAINS IN THE WORLD OCEAN

compiled by Carol T. Stuart

 

The primary objective for developing a CeDAMar database is to generate a map of biological abyssal sampling stations in the World Ocean. Over fifty percent of the World Ocean’s Seafloor is abyssal (4000-6000 m) (Menard and Smith, 1966), but there is no comprehensive synthesis of abyssal sampling.  A map will show the extent of sampling that has been conducted in abyssal plains, which will provide the information needed to synthesize abyssal biogeography, and for planning future sampling expeditions. This database is an initial effort to gather information to incorporate into a relational database under the auspices of CeDAMar. 

The database covers sampling sites from the H.M.S. Challenger Expedition, 1872-1876, to recent expeditions in 2005.  

Since abyssal depths differ among oceans, the following depths were used in compiling sampling stations for the database:                                            

OCEAN/SEA

DEPTH (m)

Arctic Ocean and Norwegian Sea

>3000

Atlantic Ocean 

4000-6000

Pacific Ocean

4000-6000

Indian Ocean

4000-6000

Antarctic, Southern Ocean

3500-6000

Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Venezuela Basins

>3000

Mediterranean Sea

>3000

 

Stations from the upper limits of trenches (4000-5000 m) were included in the database.

Most headings are self-explanatory, but a few need further interpretation.  First, the major institution organizing an expedition was easier to identify in the early years of sampling than more recently when many research cruises are collaborative efforts by a number of institutions and countries.  Second, a reference published in the literature is included for the faunal group (denoted by an “x”) found in the sample.  The Station Reference refers to a published reference of station data when a faunal group is not indicated.  A special publication or volume that is dedicated to a particular sampling region or program is also cited under Station Reference.  A bibliography of all the references for the station data is included with this report.

 

The majority of information in the database is taken from the scientific literature and three national databases from Russia, France and Mexico.  The German sampling data are not included in the database, since they are already on the relational database into which the information from this database will be incorporated. National databases are useful since they contain large sets of data; however, in many cases they are not easily accessible through the internet. When databases are available on-line, most are focused on species identification with a detailed account of the sampling stations often not included.

 

Map Results

 

The map generated from the database with 1608 sampling locations shows that benthic biological sampling in the abyss has been biased toward the Northern Hemisphere and that vast areas of the South Pacific abyssal plains remain largely unexplored. Only about 1.4363 x 10-9 percent of the abyssal floor area in the World Ocean has been sampled.  Since it has been difficult to locate the material collected from many of the sampling sites, the number of samples archived and available to other research scientists remains unclear in many cases.

 

The database will enable others to build upon this foundation by submitting additional data on the biological sampling that has taken place in the abyss.  It is important for CeDAMar and other Census for Marine Life programs to encourage investigators to process and archive their samples in an established institution on a timely basis and to include the location of the samples in subsequent publications. 

  Acknowledgements

 

I thank Tina Molodtsova for the Russian data, Elva Escobar for the Gulf of Mexico data and Marie-Claire Fabri for her help with the French IFREMER data.

 

Reference 

 

Menard, H.W. and S.M. Smith. 1966. Hypsometry of ocean basin provinces. Journal of Geophysical Research 71: 4305-4325.

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