Presenter: S. Deyzel – SAEON, Dept of Zoology CMR NMMU

Pretoria – The contribution of plankton to biogeochemical cycling and conservation of energy within aquatic food webs is widely recognised, as is their usefulness for monitoring changing environmental conditions, including those directly related to climate change.

Their small size, rapid turn-over, high abundance and responsiveness to environmental change makes plankton popular model organisms for topics central to both theoretical and applied ecology.

However, even the most basic ecological questions demand some understanding of species occurrences, distribution, abundance and interactions, yet this information is not always readily available and generally cumbersome to generate, given our ongoing reliance on traditional methods for species identification.

Limited primary biodiversity information has repercussions for research, management and policy. Without it we cannot contribute to global standardisation efforts such as essential biodiversity variable derivations, which is so crucial in the study, reporting and management of biodiversity change on both regional and global scales.

The situation for coastal pelagic ecosystems is no exception. Available biodiversity information for coastal plankton is sorely lacking, which limits our ability to monitor ecosystem states, understand their dynamics and detect change.

Without such systems knowledge our ability to accurately forecast future scenarios against altered climate states will remain limited. Herewith Deysel presented an operational framework aimed at addressing key challenges currently hindering the generation and implementation of coastal plankton biodiversity information.

The researchers based concepts on long-term ecological research initiatives operational within the Algoa Bay Sentinel Site and shared their ambitious vision for a national mandate.