In April 2015, a postcard was returned to The Marine Biological Association that had been adrift in the North Sea for over 108 years. Last month we learned that the postcard is a new world record for a message in a bottle. You can find out more on page 4.
The Internet has made it so much easier to collect and check data, and to establish and maintain standards, and there are now many sophisticated and engaging ways for the wider public to get involved in scientific research. In this edition we learn about a new citizen science project called CoCoast which harnesses the enthusiasm of beach-goers in England, and provides data to inform the Marine Conservation Zone process.
Globally, February 2016 was the warmest month in recorded history and the ramifications of climate change ripple through these pages, from an examination of the role of larger marine animals in carbon cycling (did you know that blue whales in the Southern Ocean transport an estimated 88 tons of nitrogen annually to tropical latitudes?), to a new study that assesses the biological responses of vertebrates to climate change. We feel the pain of sea urchins in the Caribbean and find out why these lowly grazers are so vital in efforts to restore coral reefs. On a remote atoll in the Cook Islands people are struggling with the immediate effects of the current El Niño event, a phenomenon that could double in frequency as a result of climate warming.
Warming is not the only challenge facing marine life; rising atmospheric CO2 is driving changes in seawater chemistry. The first study of a deep-water CO2 vent looks at eco-physical adaptations among seabed organisms whose life histories mean they cannot move away from vents, giving some indication of how twilight zone habitats may change as the seas move toward acidity.
As well as being among the largest fish in the sea, sawfish have special significance in many traditional cultures. We find out why these ‘river monsters’ are in decline and why their status as totemic animals is important in developing conservation strategies.
We turn from a species in global decline to a discipline suffering the same fate. Taxonomy is vital for documenting, monitoring and conserving diversity in a changing world. Pat Hutchings of the Australian Museum Research Institute gives a timely account of why the specialist work to provide comprehensive inventories of invertebrates—in this case the surprisingly photogenic worms of the Great Barrier Reef—is so important.
It would be hard to find a more neglected group of marine organisms, but MBA Research Fellow Michael Cunliffe reveals how marine fungi are beginning to give up their secrets.
The Marine Biologist is becoming more widely recognized for the quality of its content. Most of the articles in the magazine are written by MBA members which I think bodes well for the future of the Association