The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has demonstrated a worst-case scenario oil disaster at great depths, while also highlighting the paucity of baseline data for deep-ocean ecosystems in general. Without such data, and information on the drivers of natural variability in these systems, impacts from these
activities are difficult or impossible to assess. Here we introduce a new research initiative, DEEPEND (Deep-Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico), whose mission will be to characterize the oceanic ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico to infer baseline biophysical conditions in the water column. This information will establish a time-series with which natural and anthropogenic changes can be detected. The DEEPEND Consortium will conduct a 3-year (2015–2017) sampling and analysis program that will focus on short-term (sub-generational) and long-term (evolutionary) timescales to appraise the dynamic nature of communities using a suite of integrated approaches. These investigations include: (1) a direct assessment (taxonomic and genetic) of GoM deep-pelagic community structure, from microbes to nekton, with simultaneous investigation of the physical and biological drivers of this structure; (2) examination of the patterns of deep-scattering layer distributions in response to time (day vs. night) and oceanographic conditions; (3) a timeseries analysis/modeling of biophysical data from 2010–2017; (4) a time-series examination of differences in genetic diversity among key species; (5) biogeochemical assays of the effect of DWHOS on shallow- and deep-pelagic biota (otolith microchemistry and whole-body PAH analyses); and (6) traditional and isotope-based trophic analyses to examine the primary vectors in a food web context.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mahmood-shivji/115/