Report of a Workshop on the Discovery Corridor Concept and its Applicability
St. Andrews Biological Station – Jan 13-14, 2004
The concept of Discovery Corridors emerged from recent meetings of the Centre for Marine Biodiversity (see especially the report “Three Oceans of Biodiversity: Development of a science plan for marine biodiversity in Canada ”). The objectives of this workshop were to 1) discuss and develop further the concept of Discovery Corridors/Areas, 2) discuss the potential hypotheses/objectives best addressed in such areas, and 3) propose the location(s) of such corridors, including identification of a pilot corridor. Funding was provided by DFO, the Centre for Marine Biodiversity, and the Sloan Foundation. There were 25 participants.
There is enthusiasm for the concept of a Marine Biodiversity ‘Corridor of Discovery' tentatively defined as “…a swath of bottom and the water column above it, encompassing a variety of ecologically interlinked seascapes/habitats that may support a range of biodiversity and may contain previously unknown species and processes”.
Corridors would logically transect a variety of seascapes, and would contain gradients of depth, productivity, human activity, or any other ecologically relevant variables. They would serve as focal points for collaborative scientific studies and for education. The notion of Discovery is seen as including elements of enhanced inventory (species to seascape level), elucidation of processes related to biodiversity, development of methods and approaches related to diverse scales, ground-truthing of new technologies, and studies of productivity across gradients.
The Centre for Marine Biodiversity has previously articulated a conceptual framework to define the scope of biodiversity study in matrix form (Ecosystem: Species: Population X Inventory: Monitor: Process Studies). Although there is potential for studies at all parts of the matrix, the Corridor of Discovery is seen as a logical area in which to focus Inventory and Monitoring activities at the Ecosystem and Species levels.
A logical first objective would be:
- to undertake (within a 5-10 year period) as complete an inventory as possible of species and seascapes within a ‘proof of concept' corridor.
Such an initiative would provide a focus for additional objectives, including:
- critical training in systematics,
- biodiversity education and outreach (including data sharing), and
- a monitoring program related to long term change.
Areas and Proposed Pilot
Workshop participants identified a number of potential ‘Corridors' including (for the Atlantic) the Gulf of Maine transect, Halifax line, Terra Nova line, and Bonne Bay line through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They noted the obvious links with existing or proposed observatories (such as the Neptune and Bonne Bay Observatories) and with a number of ongoing initiatives – particularly the Census of Marine Life.
A pilot corridor of discovery was proposed for the Gulf of Maine (Fig 1) – running from the intertidal to the sea mounts. Advantages of this location include: Canadian and USA involvement (international, transboundary), variety of biogeographic regions, diverse habitats and gradients, access to deep water habitats relatively close to shore, and encompasses areas that are well known and poorly known. A group is to develop a more detailed plan for the Gulf of Maine Marine Biodiversity Corridor of Discovery.
Fig. 1. Approximate location of proposed pilot Marine Biodiversity Corridor of Discovery