Thursday May 30, 2024


A new map of the activities of seafloor invertebrate animals across the entire ocean reveals for the first time critical factors that support and maintain the health of marine ecosystems.

The researchers specifically focused on the unsung yet vital role burrowing animals, including worms, clams, and shrimps, play as “ecosystem engineers” in shaping nutrient cycling and ecosystem health—and, in turn, maritime economies and food security—throughout the oceans.

The researchers used machine learning to map out a global picture of these animals’ activities and the environmental conditions that drive them.

Marine sediments cover the majority of the Earth’s surface and are extremely diverse. By stirring up and churning the seafloor—a process known as bioturbation—seafloor invertebrates play a significant role in regulating global carbon, nutrient, and biogeochemical cycles, says Shuang Zhang, an assistant professor in the oceanography department at Texas A&M University and first author of the study in the journal Current Biology.

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