Almost five years of studying the deep Atlantic in unprecedented detail has revealed 12 species new to science by multination research team.  The sea mosses, molluscs and corals had eluded discovery because the sea floor is so unexplored, scientists say. Researchers warn that the newly discovered animals could already be under threat from climate change. Carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is making it more acidic, causing coral skeletons in particular to corrode. 

Some key Atlantic discoveries from the mission included:

New species: “At least” 12 new deep-sea species. The team also found approximately 35 new records of species in areas where they were previously unknown.  Climate change: Ocean warming, acidification, and decreasing food availability will combine to significantly shift and reduce the availability of suitable habitats for deep-sea species by 2100. Hydrothermal vents: Scientists discovered a field of these sea-floor hot springs in the Azores. Hydrothermal fields are important areas of relatively high biological productivity that host complex communities in the midst of the vast deep ocean. Click here to read more

Native Oysters re-discovered in Belfast Lough

Native oysters have unexpectedly returned to the shores of Belfast Lough after more than 100 years, researchers have discovered – though scientists are still unsure how they got there.

Ostrea edulis, the European flat oyster, is listed as threatened and/or declining by the Ospar conservation scheme and is the focus of numerous biodiversity projects around Europe. But now it has impressed scientists by establishing itself in Belfast Lough without the aid of a reintroduction programme. Large numbers of oysters were last recorded in the sea inlet during the late 1800s before they were fished to oblivion a few years later.  A WhatsApp photo of an oyster, found by an old friend who had taken a loughside walk, was what first alerted David Smyth at Bangor University in Wales to the recurrence of the species.  “I nearly fell off my chair,” he said. That was two years ago and, on a visit to scour the coast, he failed to find any himself. But after receiving another report, Smyth conducted a systematic survey in May and June this year, and discovered 41 live oysters scattered around the coast.

It’s a boost to biodiversity in the lough, since oysters filter seawater and their shells provide a habitat for many other sea creatures including tiny worms, snails, algae and anemones.

Smyth and his colleagues published details of the discovery in the Regional Studies in Marine Science journal. They reveal that some of the oysters, based on estimates of their age, might have been living in the lough for a decade. Click here to read the paper

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