TABLE 2-6 Ecosystem Dynamics and Biodiversity: Areas Where Observatories Are Very Useful to Investigate a Particular Scientific Problem and Where They Are Useful.

Observatory science is VERY USEFUL to accomplish the following:

  • Detect and follow episodic ecological events (e.g., plankton blooms, faunal responses to volcanic eruptions or hydrothermal fluid events, faunal responses to detritus-deposition events in deep water, mass spawning events);

  • Characterize and understand long-term (annual to decadal) ecological cycles (e.g., predator and prey population dynamics, spread of pathogens);

  • Characterize and understand shorter-term (diel, tidal to seasonal ) biological cycles (e.g., biogeochemical implications of diel, ontogenetic, and seasonal migrations of populations);

  • Detect and monitor ecosystem responses to anthropogenic perturbations (e.g., response of coastal systems to nutrient loading, impacts of large-scale enrichments, influences of climate change on nutrients, trace metals and trace gases, evaluating relationships between environmental forcing functions, and ecosystem state shifts over very long timescales); and

  • Forecast population and community changes (e.g., forecasting changes in fisheries stocks and food-web dynamics).

Observatory science is USEFUL to accomplish the following:

  • Characterize changes in biodiversity and community structure;

  • Determine the spatial scales of the connection between marine populations via dispersal of early life stages (e.g., local population isolation, barriers to dispersal, and linkages in the epidemiology of disease);

  • Monitor dynamics of marine food webs (e.g., encounter rates of predators and prey, detection of processes generating large-scale patterns in ecosystems); and

  • Characterize gamete mixing, fertilization success, and propagule dispersion.

To address the science where observatories are very useful, development or improvement of the following sensors is needed:

  • Long-range AUVs with biosensors and optics;

  • Advanced ROVs for episodic sampling, experiment emplacement, and recovery;

  • Active tracking sonars whose data can be coupled with satellite imagery;

  • Chemical and biological sensors and optics (e.g., spectrophotometers, coulter counters, CHN (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen) analyzers, video plankton recorders, gene chips);

  • Time-sequencing settling plates and particle and organism traps suitable for long-term deployment;

  • Both video and still cameras with either sensor or remote control of image collection;

  • Active omnidirectional acoustic sonars; and

  • In situ sample-processing and sample-collection and preservation capability.

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