As in the former FWF project, our research strives to learn about system function by studying system dysfunction. Present knowledge about the behavioral responses and mortalities of benthic organisms is not commensurate with the crucial role this fauna plays in coastal ecosystems.
Our proposal is designed to reduce this gap. It will also substantially contribute to the current discussion on the validity of hypoxia thresholds for marine biodiversity.
The present project plans to expand upon the current EAGU approach, which was designed to focus on the well-developed macroepifauna. The new approach will attempt to incorporate
key representatives of the macroinfauna and
meiofauna (foraminiferans & harpacticoid copepods) and will include sediment geochemistry.
We will also take the EAGU concept one step further by evaluating
post-anoxia developments in both the macroepifauna and meiofauna (e.g. decomposition, scavenging/predation, recovery).
This is a unique effort to examine detailed responses at all relevant levels – individuals, species, functional groups, community – under natural conditions.
For this project we have assembled a top-notch team of international collaboration partners, who have provided advice for the proposal and who will help work up and interpret the samples and images/films.
Dr. Marleen De Troch (Gent University, Marine Biology Section, Belgium)
Dr. Mateja Grego, Dr. Jadran Faganeli & Neza Koron (National Institute of Biology, Marine Biology Station Piran, Slovenia)
Dr. Emmanuelle Geslin, Dr. Frans Jorissen, Dr. Edouard Metzger, Dewi Langlet (Univ. of Angers, Laboratory of Recent and Fossil Bio-indicators, France)
Dr. Richard Twitchett (Univ. of Plymouth, School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Sciences, UK)
Dr. Johann Hohenegger, Dr. Christian Baal (Univ. of Vienna, Department of Palaeontology, Austria)
The project of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is designed to study the key symptoms and effects of oxygen deficiencies on the behavior and mortality of bottom-living organisms in the Northern Adriatic Sea.
Even though low DO events are increasing here and elsewhere, their onset and extent remain difficult to predict and tend to elude field studies. Moreover, mortality events often run their course within a few days, further hindering their comprehensive documentation.
To address this problem we developed a state-of-the-art underwater device that creates and documents oxygen crises in situ. This Experimental Anoxia Generating Unit (EAGU) consists of oxygen-, hydrogen sulphide-, temperature- and pH sensors along with a digital time-lapse camera, flashes and batteries and can remain on the seafloor for several days before retrieval. This approach, paralleling the "dome of death" concept of our colleague Robert Diaz, enables us to:
document natural behaviour of benthic fauna
define series of behavioural responses of individual species with decreasing oxygen concentration
document inter-specific behavioural interactions
determine the sequence of mortality
help define indicator species
provide insight into changes on the species and community-level due to oxygen crises here and elsewhere
Cooperation with the Dept. of Paleontology, Vienna and the Marine Biology Station Piran, Slovenia