Natural Geography in Shore Areas

An international collaborative effort to inventory and monitor biodiversity in the narrow inshore zone of the world's oceans at depths of less than 20 metres.

Project Leaders:

Dr. Shirayama Yoshihisa, Seto Marine Biological Laboratory, Kyoto University, Wakayama, Japan

Dr. Brenda Konar, Assistant Professor Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Marine Science, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

The Natural Geography In Shore Areas (NaGISA) project is one of seven initial field projects of the Census of Marine Life (CoML). It is a collaborative effort aimed at inventorying and monitoring the biodiversity in the narrow inshore zone of the world's oceans at depths of less than 20 meters, the area people know best and impact most. This is reflected in the Japanese word nagisa, referring to the narrow coastal zone where land meets the sea. NaGISA holds a unique position in the Census of Marine Life as an ambassador project, linking CoML to local interests. It is an exercise in international cooperation and capacity building.

NaGISA will complete an equatorial longitudinal gradient from the east coast of Africa to the Palmyra Atoll, and a pole-to-pole latitudinal transect from the northern coast of Alaska to Antarctica's McMurdo Sound. NaGISA employs a simple, cost-efficient and intentionally low-tech sampling protocol that can be adopted by many research groups and countries, and encourage local community involvement. The ultimate goal is a series of well-distributed standard transects from the high intertidal zone to 20 meters water depth around the world, which can be repeated over a 50-year or even greater time frame.

Methods and Technology
NaGISA has an administrative center in Japan, organizing the longitudinal transect, and another in Alaska, responsible for the latitudinal transect. Building on site selection criteria and sampling protocols developed during the International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY), this project's aims are to achieve wide coverage with standardized techniques that will provide a biodiversity baseline for future comparisons.
Target habitats are rocky bottom macro algal communities and soft bottom sea-grass communities, which are complex globally occurring ecosystems that are so far less well characterized than coral reef communities. For each study site, replicate samples will be collected at the high, mid and low intertidal and at 1, 5 and 10m subtidal zones (15 and 20m will be done where possible). There are two levels of target sampling -- both include measurement of surface and bottom seawater temperature and a visual classification of substrata.
1.       Non-invasive sampling using photography and observational techniques, percent cover estimates of colonial invertebrates and rhizoidal macroalgae and counts of algal stipes and solitary fauna within quadrats.
2.       Invasive sampling, or direct removal, consists of core samples taken within sea grass beds, and careful and complete removal of all organisms from small quadrats within macroalgal sites.
The NaGISA protocol constitutes the minimum standardized sampling requirement for the proposed biodiversity determination, although scientists are welcome to incorporate additional sampling parameters at local sites.
NaGISA's longitudinal and latitudinal gradients will be completed by 2005. Data collected through the NaGISA project will be incorporated in the Census of Marine Life's Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), an online global atlas for accessing, modeling and mapping marine biological data in a multidimensional geographic context.

The Future
Biodiversity is one potential measure of ecosystem health, and a measure of biological interactions such as competition, disturbance, facilitation, predation, recruitment, and productivity of a system. On a larger scale, biodiversity measurements can serve as an indicator of the balance between speciation and extinction. Inventorying and monitoring biodiversity are a crucial task for identifying and clarifying activities that impact ecosystems. NaGISA will provide baseline data for long-term monitoring, as well as information needed to answer fundamental questions concerning changes in biodiversity with latitude and longitude. The great strength of NaGISA is that the CoML goals of global biodiversity coverage can be met and financed through locally vested interests in every country in the world, while creating a standardized data matrix suitable for testing a wide range of ecological theories and solving practical problems.
No other project has ever dealt with biodiversity information with such fine resolution on such a wide scale. Because of the large international and geographic scope of the program, NaGISA researchers have proposed the development of new methods for the taxonomic study of meiofauna using flow-cytometry techniques, gel suspension and holographic imaging. By improving modern methods of taxonomic study, a more thorough and accurate characterization of biodiversity may be achieved.

Visit the NaGISA website.
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