Endeavour Risk Assessment

This project aims to examine the dominant biological communities to develop a complementary approach to expand the risk assessment by focusing on the functions of key vent communities by examining species composition and their functional traits. Through understanding how key communities work, researchers can provide whole-community indicators of responses to stressors.

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The Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents Marine Protected Area (MPA) was established in 2002 in recognition of the unique ecosystem and unusual species at these Canadian hot vents. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is formulating a risk assessment approach to support the MPA Management Plan. In collaboration with DFO scientists, we will execute a field campaign in 2016 to the MPA that will sample vent communities and survey their distributions. We expect to augment diversity discovery in this MPA.

Analyses will include assessment of the microbial, meiofaunal and macrofaunal components of the assemblages – the first time for such an integration in the vent habitat. Next-generation sequencing technologies will be used to assign functional traits to free-living microbes (protists and prokaryotes) that occur within dominant faunal communities. Faunal functional traits are available from morphology and field observations over many three decades. We will then develop a functional trait matrix for all organisms present to feed a diversity model based on functional roles in the community.  Using the DFO identified stressors, the next step will be a Pathways of Effects model based on functions. The intent is to validate the current approach and assess a “whole-community” method that may be useful in other MPA’s.

Project Deliverables / Achievements

  • A macrofaunal community profile of diversity based on abundances is ongoing.

  • Functional trait and states for about 55 species of meio-/macro-fauna based on complete literature and expert review is completed.

  • The identified risks to a functional community to develop a Pathways of Effects (PoE) model for risk assessment model and compare to current predictions is ongoing.

  • Characterization of microbial metabolic functional diversity and dominance in two communities (e.g. significant pathways of energy metabolism, predatory versus parasitic protists) in progress.

  • Incorporation of the functional diversity and PoE models with the metabolic roles of microbes is in progress.

  • Evaluation of the importance of measures of functional redundancy and taxonomic depth of trait conservation within the microbial community on community function and response to disturbance is in progress.

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Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents MPA