Sunday, February 14, 2010

Science Based Conservation

The four most cutting words in the English language are "I told you so."

The Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument lobbied heavily for full protections for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. In a letter to Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality James Connaughton we asked for protections to include the entire water column of the full EEZ surrounding the islands of Asuncion, Maug, and Uracas. From our letter dated December 15, 2008:
The Friends of the Monument believe that the no-extraction area should extend to the entire EEZ so that it includes the full convergence zone of the Pacific Plate and Philippine Plate, including the seamounts, hydrothermal vents, mud volcanoes, submerged volcanoes, coral reefs, the famed Mariana Trench and all other sea life and habitat in-between.

These habitats, from the surface down to the deepest darkest place on Earth are all intertwined. Many bottom-dwelling creatures depend on the detritus "snow" from dead animals from above, while pelagic fish feed on smaller creatures sustained by deep sea nutrient upwelling. You cannot separate the bottom of the ocean from the water above it. They are all connected as one ecosystem.

We are asking the President to protect the entire ecosystem surrounding the three northern islands, much as President Theodore Roosevelt protected an entire ecosystem when he set aside 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon in 1908. And we are further asking that modest additions along the Mariana Trench be made to increase the area into the largest no-take marine monument in the world.
A scientific study recently confirmed the bolded statement above:
Washington, Feb 12 (ANI): Evidence from the deepest surveyed point in the world's oceans has suggested that tiny single-celled creatures called foraminifera living at extreme depths of more than ten kilometers build their homes using material that sinks down from near the ocean surface.

The point in question is called 'The Challenger Deep', and is located in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

It lies in the hadal zone beyond the abyssal zone, and plunges down to a water depth of around 11 kilometers.

"The hadal zone extends from around six kilometers to the deepest seafloor. Although the deepest parts of the deepest trenches are pretty inhospitable environments, at least for some types of organism, certain kinds of foraminifera are common in the bottom sediments," said Professor Andrew Gooday of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).

[snip]

"Our observations demonstrate that coccoliths, and probably also planktonic foraminiferan tests, reach the Challenger Deep intact," said Gooday.

"These particles were probably transported to these extreme depths in rapidly sinking marine snow, the aggregated remains of phytoplankton that lived in the sunlit surface ocean, or in faecal pellets from zooplankton," he added.

It seems likely, therefore, that at least some agglutinated foraminifera living at extreme hadal depths build their homes from material that sinks down from the ocean above. (ANI)
This helps support our belief that the health of the ecosystem at the depths of the Mariana Trench is connected to the near surface ecosystem miles above.

The Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument continue to push for full protections and to lobby the federal government to fulfill the promises made by President George W. Bush when he invoked the Antiquities Act to create the monument, including the building of a visitors center on Saipan and education and enforcement dollars.

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