The SIGSBEE programme, a long-term project leaded by the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) to study spatial patterns and temporal trends in the diversity of deep-sea ecosystems in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The SIGSBEE cruises support the Long Term Ecological Research Project "Factores que definen la variabilidad de la diversidad biológica y biomasa béntica en el mar profundo del Golfo de México" (Factors that define the variability of the biodiversity and benthic biomass in the deep-sea Gulf of Mexico). These cruises have been carried out for the last 11 years and include the monitoring of a time series station. The results obtained so far, at depth ranging from 200 up to 3000 m, question some of the established diversity patterns in the deep-sea. Results from cruises in 2004 and 2006 have recognized the importance of local deep-sea infiltration of methane oil. With support of moored sediment trap samples placed 500m above seafloor we have been able to evaluate the seasonal input of biogenic material of photoautotrophic origin aggregated and exported to the sea-floor. The moorings are part of an ongoing collaboration among UNAM, IfM GEOMAR and CICESE. The research is hypothesis oriented trying to understand the effect of escarpments, knolls and canyons on biodiversity patterns.
With the results of these past cruises we have been able to establish changes in the species richness, abundance and biomass that respond to pulses of food supply on a year to year basis, we have been able to detect the negative effect on both slope and continental rise by hurricanes. These natural events affect the seafloor communities by destabilizing the slope sediment and generating turbidity currents and sediment transport affecting biodiversity. SIGSBEE cruises will continue to give a better evaluation of the deep sea biodiversity in the long term.