This week we would like to introduce you to:
Forum presentation: It’s the little things that (I) count
While rocky reefs, kelp gardens and coral reefs form spectacular structures and attract the large, colourful animals that hold our attention as divers, aquarium visitors and documentary viewers, they are the exceptions in our oceans where sand and mud are the rule. Corals and kelps can only live in shallow waters and rocky reefs are rare. Far more of the world’s seafloor comprises plains of soft sediments which, in spite of a two dimensional appearance and no obvious signs of activity, serve as biological powerhouses – high biodiversity, high biomass habitats in which animals that would give H.R. Geiger nightmares struggle to colonise, feed and breed.
I focus on these small, industrious seafloor denizens to answer questions about biodiversity, adaptations and the impacts of human activity on marine systems.
Matt McArthur spent the last twenty years studying seafloor invertebrates in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. Wading in estuaries, diving in shallow systems and using remote sensing and an array of grabs, dredges and corers in deep waters, he brought critters and data from the seafloor to the lab to better understand who lives where and why, and how human activity is affecting relationships between habitats and biodiversity. Advances in technology, statistics and our understanding of biological systems have seen his field undergo dramatic changes in the course of his career, taking soft sediment benthic ecology from a kind of biological stamp collecting to a science with explanatory and predictive power.