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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: A comprehensive framework to assess the effects of methane seeps activity on deep-sea assemblages

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Methane seeps represent truly unique ecosystems and despite substantial research in recent years, a great deal of fundamental knowledge remains undiscovered. This collaborative project will provide the first comprehensive comparison of marine species richness patterns across seeps of different levels of activity.

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Developments of molecular techniques now allow the study of the composition of entire ecological communities, tackling the long-lasting problem of overlooking inconspicuous metazoan diversity in ecosystems’ research. Such advances have allowed conducting detailed studies of previously unexplored biodiversity but many ecosystems remain understudied. This is the case of deep-sea chemosynthesis-based fauna, for which it remains unknown how levels of activity in methane seeps affect these assemblages. This project will use state-of- the-art genetic techniques to provide an unprecedented resolution in the detection of species found in methane seeps with different levels of activity. This proposal thus will quantify species richness levels across a wide variety of marine settings across the northwest Pacific’s continental slope. The observations will assess how different levels of methane seeps activity shape community composition. Ultimately, the project will help the scientific community and general public to better understand deep-sea communities found in seeps and be fundamental to establish a long-term bi-national collaboration between the involved research groups.

Funding dates: August 2019 - July 2022

Funding provider: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology collaborative grant

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