Ecology of Shallow Wood FallsApril 12 2017
Our deep-sea investigations of energetic community ecology using wood falls seeks to pair our large experiments with modest deployments of wood packages in the coastal habitats of Louisiana. Although not a significant source of energy in a highly productive riverine margin, wood falls represent a benthic habitat that hosts specialized fauna similar to the deep-sea. Using an OpenROV Trident we could monitor wood fall experiments to better determine the habitat associations bi-weekly to learn more about the unseen interactions that occur with sunken wood.
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Our expedition in coastal Louisiana will in many ways be an analog of our deep-sea experiments investigating wood fall communities. In May of 2017 we will deploy 200 wood packages at 5 sites, 2,000 meters deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Identical wood packages will be deployed in a transect from land to open ocean in Terrebonne Bay with the goal of conducting parallel experiments. Using the OpenROV we will gather environmental data at our experimental sites and conduct frequent visual inspections to learn more about the ecology of wood on sea floor ecosystems in the shallow water habitats of Louisiana.
The Trident ROV would be used primarily as a tool to conduct site inspections in an effort to create a time series documentation of the biological and physical associations that a food and structure source creates in shallow water coastal communities. Not only would the Trident be an observation platform for the experimental arrays of wood packages but it would also be invaluable for the discovery of natural wood deposits associated with storm events and coastal erosion. Accessibility to wood fall experiments allow for an in depth investigation of several research questions that can only be addressed with regular video surveys. These include multi-species interactions, habitat use by transient mobile fauna, predator-prey dynamics, encrusting habitat enhancement, regular structure associations, and physical enhancement of benthic habitats.
The use of a Trident ROV gives us a freedom unknown for these kinds of manipulative ecological experiments. Knowledge gained from the type of work described above would then enable us to plan a larger scale investigation that would seek to tie metabolic energetics along transects of differing community and resources gradients in the coastal marshes of Louisiana. Potential to develop a strong research program using the Trident ROV allows us to couple multiple lines of research that ultimately would answer basic questions of habitat heterogeneity, linkages between ecosystem structure and function and constrain aspects of the metabolic theory of ecology.