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Title: A trait-based approach to the biodiversity of deep-sea hydrothermal-vent ecosystems
Author: Chapman, Abbie Sarah Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 7082
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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The study of the functional component of biodiversity has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity because of its capacity to inform our understanding of the relationships between species and their environments for their conservation and management. Ecological traits, such as body size and trophic level, can be used to compare communities that differ taxonomically but share traits. Hydrothermal-vent communities are well suited to a trait-based approach because they are home to highly endemic species. To date, vent ecologists have instead focused on taxonomic and phylogenetic biodiversity patterns, grouping vents into distinct biogeographic provinces. The relative biodiversity of these provinces can be compared using traits as a common, cross-province 'currency'. Here, we use a trait-based approach to study the biodiversity of active deep-sea hydrothermal-vent ecosystems, gaining insights relevant for ecology and conservation science. First, we identify traits shaping the performance of a vent species within its physico-chemically extreme environment, as well as its influence on ecological processes. Of these traits, we score those for which relevant information is available for the majority of vent fauna, using available literature and expert advice. We first focus on the well-sampled vent fields of the Juan de Fuca Ridge region in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Here, our investigations showcase hydrothermal vents as model, 'untouched' ecosystems for developing ecological theory for conservation. This potential leads us to create a global trait database for vent fauna with an international pool of expert contributors - 'sFDvent'. To accompany the trait, taxonomic, and occupancy information in sFDvent, we also extract, map, and analyse large-scale environmental data of potential influence on the ecology of vent communities. Finally, we use trait, taxonomic, and environmental characteristics of well-studied vent regions to quantify their relative uniqueness for conservation purposes. These dimensions of uniqueness are not spatially congruent, suggesting that a multidimensional approach is critical to ensure that priority areas for conservation and management are not missed. By 2020, deep-sea mining is expected to begin on a commercial scale, exploiting polymetallic sulfides formed from hydrothermal-vent precipitates. We hope that our investigations will inform hydrothermal-vent management policies and guidelines before the first human footprints are left on these unique, untouched ecosystems.
Supervisor: Bates, Amanda E. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available