Wooden Homes on the Seafloor Yield Insights Into the Impacts of Climate Change

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Image captured from a video camera mounted on underwater remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts on dive number 304. Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Nearly two miles below the ocean’s surface, we are building new worlds. You might be surprised that these ecospheres are wooden—little log cabins hosting a cornucopia of sea life.  By controlling the size of these wooden homes, we can begin to answer fundamental questions about how the oceans will adapt to climate change. In our most recent, paper we are beginning to grasp the extent that food controls biodiversity, biological novelty, and the competition among species.

Image captured from a video camera mounted on underwater remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts on dive number 304. Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

On the seafloor, chunks of wood—we call them wood falls—play host to a variety of invertebrate species often not found anywhere else in the ocean.  These species live their entire lives on waterlogged timber; settling out of the water column as larvae to consume wood, or to prey upon other species that do.  Once on a wood fall, these organisms can never leave, their dispersal limited to the beginning