New roadmap for future research of marine kingdomMedia release
A team of 40 scientists from across the world has come together to build a road map for future research of the planet’s marine life that makes the best use of tracking devices which allow individual animals to be followed as they move around the oceans.
The project’s lead researcher, Alfred Deakin Professor Graeme Hays, said constant advances in technology meant the underwater world could be better monitored than ever before.
“It is a golden age for marine animal tracking studies, with a range of reliable and small electronic tags allowing us to record the lives of animals, including whales, turtles, seals and fish, for many months or even years,” said Professor Hays, from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology, within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
“Tags used in marine science research allow us to measure where animals go, how deep they dive, how fast they swim, where and when they eat and rest, and even every time they beat their tail or flippers, but the technology is also so good nowadays that sometimes scientists aren’t sure exactly what to do with the huge volumes of data they are collecting.
“For these reasons, there was an urgent need to triage the most important questions in the field of movement ecology for targeted research, particularly in the case of marine species for which technical advances in tagging have been profound.”
In the latest edition of leading international journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the team, which included 40 marine megafauna bio-logging experts from around the world, has published the key 20 questions that need to be addressed in this growing field of movement ecology.
The article, Key Questions in Marine Megafauna Movement Ecology, can be found here.
“During the process, everyone submitted their questions and then we distilled them down to the list in the paper,” Professor Hays said.
“Key issues to emerge included using tagging technology to help ocean conservation, for example by helping design new protected areas, showing the value of existing protected areas and helping to reduce fishery bycatch.
“As well as conservation benefits, tags will also allow us to address mysteries that have perplexed scientists for more than 100 years.
“For example, Charles Darwin both marvelled, and yet could not explain how animals such as sea turtles are able to navigate across the ocean to find small targets such as remote islands.
“The answer to this question remains elusive, but recording the details of the routes that animals follow will help identify the navigational information they are using.”
Professor Hays said tags would also help scientists assess how climate change may impact iconic marine species such as whales and turtles whose distribution may change in the future.
“We hope that future reduction in the size of tags will allow even more species to be tracked, such as small fish and sea birds and sea turtle hatchlings,” he said.
“It is important to ensure tags are small and streamlined to minimize their impact on the animal itself.
“By bringing leading experts together from Australia, the US, Europe and Asia we should have captured most of the most pressing issues in the field. If it’s in the paper it’s an important question that needs addressing.”