Sunken wood provides energy for marine life

Scientists retrieve logs using remote operated vehicles, placed about 3,000 meters deep on the ocean floor after several years.

Fallen wood on the sea floor has proven to be a major source of energy for marine life according to a study conducted by California researchers.

On April 9, 2014 a new study lead by scientist Craig McClain was published in Biology Letters journal which discovered that wood logs placed on the sea floor contribute to sea diversity. Wood left at sea ends up becoming a potential home for a wide variety of life. Each piece of wood hosts different communities of  species meaning even the same species of wood never end up looking alike.

In 2006 McClain and colleagues sunk 36 acacia logs to the bottom, a depth of 3,203 meters, of the Pacific Ocean. Each year they sent a camera down to check up on these logs until 2011 when 18 logs were recaptured to explore the life that had settled. They separately looked at each log, determining no two logs were similar but were randomly colonized by different species. Some of these species include clams, crustaceans, bacteria and fungi.

Their findings suggested that wood boring clams claimed territory first by breaking down the cellulose in the wood and freeing up the carbon energy useful to other sea creatures. Next, shrimp-like crustacean called tanaids come along to feast clams and clam feces. Researchers also believe that the amount of sea life present on these logs correlate with the density and size of the log. Therefore a lot of our sea diversity could be due to the amount of wood on our sea floors that provide numerous marine life with energy and nutrients.

Sources:

McClain, Craig and Barry, James. “Beta-diversity on deep-sea wood falls reflects gradients in energy availability.” Biology letters 10 (4):

Zielinski, Sarah. “The surprising life of a piece of sunken wood.” Science News: Magazine of the society for science and the public. N.p., 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. <https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/surprising-life-piece-sunken-wood?mode=topic&context=60>.

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