Addressing data gaps and increasing research efforts on non-fish marine organisms of the European seas are crucially needed to gain a deeper scientific understanding and more effective management, new research has found.
In a new paper published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Marine Science’, an international team of researchers led by the Q-quatics’ EcoScope Team reviewed available biological information for non-fish marine organisms across eight European marine ecosystems, using data from SeaLifeBase. SeaLifeBase is a global open access information system inspired by and patterned after FishBase, to cover all types of marine organisms apart from fish. It provides biological and ecological information necessary to conduct biodiversity and ecosystem studies.
Findings of the current study reveal significant data gaps for species groups including cnidarians, crustaceans, echinoderms, molluscs, sponges, mammals, reptiles, and seabirds. Important biological traits required for ecology and ecosystem modeling, such as diet, fecundity, maturity, length-weight relationships, spawning, growth, lifespan, and natural mortality, are those found to suffer from these gaps in information.
Results also show that the level of available biological information varies across different species and ecosystems. Some areas have reasonably good information coverage for specific marine organisms like sea turtles and marine mammals, while threatened species were generally not well-studied across all studied areas. Only a few species are well-studied across areas such as the common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), both of which are commercially valuable.
Notable data gaps exist, particularly regarding fecundity and natural mortality, for various non-fish marine organisms, whereas length-weight relationship has the smallest information gap, followed by growth and maturity. Furthermore, several species, especially those considered threatened, were generally not well-studied across all studied areas.
“The principal aim of the present work was to review available information on key biological characteristics – diet, fecundity, maturity, length-weight relationships, spawning, growth, lifespan, and natural mortality–, of non-fish marine species across European Seas,” said Athanassios Tsikliras, coordinator of the Ecoscope project and one of the paper’s co-authors. “Thus, future research will have a baseline to prioritize species of special interest based on specific criteria such as conservation status.”
Based on the insights gained from the analyses, authors of the study recommend prioritizing the collection of data on threatened species and those with insufficient or missing data on biological traits that are common across the studied European marine ecosystems. The main goal is to address these data deficiencies to better understand and manage marine resources and related fisheries.
The paper ‘Scientific knowledge gaps on the biology of non-fish marine species across European Seas’ was published in Frontiers in Marine Science’, doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2023.1198137.
For this study, Q-quatics researchers Luisa Abucay, Patricia Sorongon-Yap, Kathleen Kesner-Reyes, Emily Capuli, and Rodolfo Reyes Jr. extracted and analyzed the data and worked on the manuscript in collaboration with other co-authors in the EcoScope project.