A recent study linking deep-sea biodiversity to ecosystem processes recognized that 1) the deep-sea supports the largest biomass of living things on the planet and 2) the deep-sea represents the most important ecosystem for carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous cycling. The chosen indicator species for the study was the nematode worm.
Nematodes apparently account for 90% of all life at the bottom of the sea. I am unsure whether this is given in terms of species richness or biomass, but either way, it’s an image problem. Just kidding, of course. The new study is published in the January 8 issue of the journal Current Biology.
Dr. Roberto Danovaro of Polytechnic University of Marche, Italy led the research team in a study of 116 sites. The results indicate an exponential increase in ecosystem processes and efficiency with increased nematode diversity. That means a small increase (or decrease) in the number of species results in a large increase (or decrease) in the rate and the efficiency of nutrient cycles. This is in contrast to terrestrial findings, which have generally shown a linear relationship between diversity and ecosystem function, such that a small increase in species would yield a small increase in efficiency.
More on the story at ScienceDaily. Tell me what you think of their headline.
Photo: Trissonchulus sp., from Dr. Tim Ferrero, The Natural History Museum, London, UK. Published in MEPS.