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Workshop on the roles of habitat heterogeneity in generating and maintaining continental margin biodiversity

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, USA

8 - 12 September 2008

Organized by Lisa Levin

From 8 to 12 September, 34 scientists met at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, California, USA) to work on the roles of the habitat heterogeneity in generating and maintaining continental margin biodiversity. For this workshop, organized by Dr Lisa Levin, all participants had provided an extended abstract of a case study illustrating one or several of the six sets of questions addressed by the workshop:

  1. What are the sources of heterogeneity on the margin that affect diversity? What is the nature of the relationship between margin habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity on local scales? What are the underlying mechanisms?
  2. Do habitat heterogeneity-diversity relationships vary as a function of regional setting, or regime? Water depth? As a function of taxon, size class, or life-history characteristics? Over what space and time scales?
  3. What theory or concepts can be brought to bear to explain the relationships? Are there experimental approaches that have revealed these relationships?
  4. How does local heterogeneity influence regional-scale diversity? Does this drive key biogeographic, depth or latitudinal patterns?
  5. Does habitat heterogeneity-driven diversity affect ecosystem function? Can habitat heterogeneity be used as a proxy for diversity and function? For detecting temporal change in ecosystem functions? What are the conservation and management implications?
  6. How can heterogeneity-diversity relationships be assessed? What sampling plans or experiments are needed to fill our knowledge gaps? Which measures? Over what spatial and temporal scales?

On the first day, for each of these set of questions, a summary of the extended abstracts was prepared and presented respectively by Drs Andrew Gooday, Ann Vanreusel, Lisa Levin (on behalf of Ron Etter), Angelika Brandt, Roberto Danovaro and Craig Smith. These talks and the discussions that followed set the stage for the following four days, which were dedicated to discussion and synthesis on the known and unknown related to these questions.
The questions were addressed in breaking groups in two different ways, either individually and across habitats or collectively within five major habitats: open slope, canyons, cold seeps, oxygen minimum zones and biogenous structures (e.g. coral reefs). Each day, plenary sessions allowed discussing and synthesizing the progress made in breaking groups.
The workshop highlighted the need for new analytical tools and meta-analyses both within habitats across regions and between habitats. The workshop thus is going to foster and speed up the process of data integration for COMARGE.