FAO, Factsheet, WP7, SponGES


Objectives. Little is known about the response of marine biodiversity to oceanographic and climatic changes on decadal to centennial time scales. Understanding how species respond to their environment, their ecological role within it, where they thrive at present and how this will change in the future, is critical for their effective management and conservation. This Work Package aim to develop the understanding by comprehensive data gathering and sharing with other work packages. To reach this aim the following objectives will be addressed:

  • Evaluate Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)-induced climate variation, including the effect on primary productivity, and on the resilience and changes in past distribution and composition of sponge grounds;
  • Develop iterative species distribution models using the best available data to produce continuous maps of where sponge species are likely to be found, both for the present day and for the future;
  • Construct food web model for sponge grounds and biogeochemical cycling (C, N, Si);
  • Investigate climate impacts to the North Atlantic ecosystem on management relevant time scales from years to multi-decade with high spatial resolution; and
  • Calibrate the silicon isotope composition of sponge spicules as a proxy for past silicic acid concentrations, and then use these robust calibrations to quantify past changes in silicon cycling.

Focus. The Work Package aims to improve our understanding of where sponges live, where they lived in the past, how resilient they are to changes in their environment, where they might live in the future under predicted climate change scenarios, and what their ecological role is in the deep sea (e.g., their role within food webs, and the part they play in important nutrient cycles). The Work Package will produce models that will be used to make predictions about each of these elements of deep-sea sponge ecology. The models will be informed by and validated with the very best existing data, and with new data collected during the SponGES project.

Why is this important? Very little is currently known about deep-sea sponge grounds. To gain a sufficient depth of understanding is particularly difficult in the deep sea because of the logistics and expense of scientific sampling in such remote and challenging conditions. For this reason, mathematical and ecological models are essential predictive tools that help scientists to ‘fill in’ some of the gaps in understanding left by sparse and sporadic sampling of the deep sea. Sponges are known to be long-lived and slow-growing, so they are likely to be vulnerable to physical disturbance and environmental change. They also present exciting potential for biotechnological and biomedical discovery. We need to conserve sponge grounds, whilst facilitating their sustainable exploitation. For this, we need ocean basin scale understanding of their distribution and ecosystem function, in the past, present, and future.

Discover more about SponGES WP7download the WP7 Infosheet here.