About this Research Topic
Sponge-dominated habitats known as sponge grounds, aggregations, gardens and reefs are widely distributed in the world’s oceans. They are particularly prevalent in the upper bathyal zone along continental shelves and slopes (within EEZs), but are also found on oceanic ridges and seamounts in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJs).
These habitats are increasingly acknowledged to play key roles in ecosystem function, from recycling of major nutrients to provision of habitat, nursery and feeding grounds for many other species. Because of a number of intrinsic ecological and life-history traits, these habitats are particularly vulnerable to direct and indirect impacts from established and emerging anthropogenic activities. They have been listed by the Oslo-Paris (OSPAR) Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic as threatened and/or endangered, and are classified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) of utmost conservation priority.
Ever-increasing technological developments are enhancing exploration, observation, and experimentation capacity and enabling significant advances in our understanding of the biology and ecology of these species and their habitats. Molecular, ecological and oceanographic data paired with modern analytical approaches also offer opportunities for closer integration across disciplines.
Nevertheless, many knowledge gaps persist, hampering development and implementation of area-based management tools and conservation measures and limiting our capacity to achieve sustained long-term conservation of biodiversity and its associated services.
This Research Topic draws on activities of the H2020 SponGES project, but welcomes studies that contribute to:
- Strengthening the knowledge base on diversity and distribution of sponge-dominated ecosystems (taxonomy, systematics, community composition, species interactions, symbioses);
- Improving understanding of ecological functioning and dynamics of these ecosystems (environmental drivers, biogeochemical cycling, carbon sequestration);
- Unraveling biogeographic patterns and connectivity across spatial and temporal scales (phylogenetics, phylogeography, phylo- and population genomics, reproductive ecology);
- Unlocking the biotechnological potential of these species and ecosystems towards discovery and assessment of new sponge-derived bioproducts and model cell systems;
- Assessing the impact of established and emerging human activities (fisheries, oil and gas exploitation, deep-sea mining) as well as the potential for ecosystem restoration;
- Enhancing the capacity to predict effects of future anthropogenic and climate-driven changes using modeling approaches (habitat suitability, species distribution, and ecosystem models);
- Advancing the science-policy interface for improved resource management and governance of these ecosystems from regional to international levels (policy briefs supporting marine spatial planning and ecosystem approaches).
The Research Topic will have two submission rounds, the first opening in February 2020 with a July 2020 deadline and the second planned for December 2020.
Submissions from outside the SponGES consortium are strongly encouraged, particularly if they focus on areas other than the North Atlantic. For authors from developing countries and/or limited fees, please contact the editor for a fee discount.
All SponGES affiliated authors are required to submit their datasets to public repositories and must contact the project’s data management officer Amelie Driemel (firstname.lastname@example.org). Non-SponGES submissions are highly encouraged to follow the same FAIR/Open Data principles.
The Topic Editors Joana R. Xavier, Shirley A Pomponi, and Ellen Kenchington declare that they are affiliated with the SponGES consortium on the Deep-sea Sponge Grounds Ecosystems of the North Atlantic.
This Research Topic is dedicated to Prof. Hans Tore Rapp (University of Bergen), coordinator of the SponGES project, good colleague and friend for his exceptional contributions to both sponge and deep-sea science.
Keywords: sponges, deep-sea ecosystems, biodiversity and connectivity, ecological function, blue biotechnology, threats and impacts, conservation and management
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.