Understanding species richness - Henrik Gislason delivers opening plenary lecture at ASC

Talk centres on biodiversity in the oceans, how the range of species is distributed and the fact that a lack of knowledge on the past makes it tough to predict the future.
Published: 21 September 2015

​​​​Species richness was on the menu for the first plenary of the Annual Science Conference, in which Professor Henrik Gislason of the National Institute of Aquatic Resources at Denmark's Technical University (DTU Aqua) stressed the importance of biodiversity before going on to cover the scientific efforts to chart the patterns of species richness distribution and the challenges in forecasting what will happen in the future, especially through a period of climate change.

Gislason, addressing a full auditorium of conference attendees, covered studies on distribution of species in the North Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea, showing that there were strong correlations between how species richness is distributed over time and spaces and by size. Increasing water temperature means more diversity, whilst another trend sees the percentage of total richness higher for species with a medium body size as opposed to the extremely large and small ones. He then explained the difficulty in getting a handle on the underlying processes that drive the distributions and the resulting graphs and patterns.

The relationship between species richness and latitude was also put under the spotlight – that being the presence of a greater variety of marine life at latitudes towards the centre of the globe than towards each of the poles – and that there were a great number of hypotheses for this pattern, but nothing consensually settled upon by the scientists.

"We need to look back because we don't understand the past," explained Gislason afterwards, on the challenge of understanding future biodiversity change through knowing how species richness was developed and maintained in the past. "We have the patterns and now the challenge is to explain the processes."

With the field of study relevant to many areas of science, Gislason also suggested that ICES would be in a prime position to bring together experts in various disciplines.

"There is a good niche for ICES with its good tradition and application of the ecosystem approach as well as bringing knowledge of other specialities," continued Gislason. "There is the oceanography data, for example. The first need would be scientific to support the data; that's also a tradition of ICES to help science by making joint databases."

Better comprehending these processes would involve the bringing together of experts in such diverse fields as paleontology, phylogeography, paleoceanography, biogeography, and ecology.

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Understanding species richness - Henrik Gislason delivers opening plenary lecture at ASC

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