More climate change impacts, in unexpected places. This time, it's the deep sea -- another frontier where ocean animals are affected by what we humans do on the dry-land portion of the planet.
Our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have just published findings that food supplies for animals on the abyssal plain -- flat, muddy expanses that cover 60 percent of the ocean floor -- are affected over periods ranging from days and weeks to decades. The amount and type of food reaching the bottom of the ocean is affected by weather and climate-related events up at the surface. And productivity of the deep sea could, in turn affect how much carbon is captured and held on the sea floor in the tissues of living (and formerly living) ocean animals.
Lead researcher Ken Smith, a marine ecologist at MBARI, thinks it's all worthy of more study, involving a comprehensive network remote sensing stations on the sea floor. MBARI's prototyped one such station -- the Monterey Accelerated Research Station, or MARS (pictured top) -- in Monterey Bay. It's an approach that can be replicated elsewhere, to fill the gaps in our understanding of the connection between surface waters and deep sea ecosystems. And its engineers have also created a Benthic Rover (lower picture) -- a robot that can travel on the sea floor and measure the impacts of climate change far below the surface.