The evolution of modern marine ecosystems: environmental controls on their structure and function

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Geog Earth & Environ Sciences

Abstract

Currently, our marine ecosystems are threatened by a number of environmental changes, including rising global temperatures and changes in ocean circulation patterns. Most worryingly of all, recent surveys have shown that large parts of the ocean are running out of oxygen, creating so-called 'dead zones' where no marine animals can live. As these dead zones continue to expand significant numbers of marine species may become extinct. Although these environmental changes are of great concern to scientists today, it is not the first time that marine ecosystems have faced such threats. The fossil record shows us that at many times in the past global temperatures have risen, ocean circulation has slowed down, and oxygen-starved dead zones have expanded throughout the world's oceans. Understanding how marine ecosystems have been affected by past environmental change, and in particular trying to find out how they coped with increasing temperatures and decreasing amounts of oxygen, may help us predict how modern ecosystems will respond today and how best to manage the present crisis. Modern marine ecosystems took millions of years to evolve. The animal groups that we see today swimming in the oceans or living on the seafloor - the fish, shellfish, sea urchins, starfish, corals and plankton - mostly appeared in the aftermath of the biggest extinction event to have affected life on Earth around 250 million years ago. This event wiped out a whole range of previously successful groups of animals, and most of the survivors were the ancestors of modern sea creatures. This major extinction event, which took place in the late Permian period, was associated with rising global temperatures, changes in ocean circulation and expansion of oxygen-poor dead zones - the very same threats facing modern ecosystems today. As early modern-style ecosystems appeared and evolved after the Late Permian and through the Mesozoic, they were struck by a succession of similar environmental catastrophes, with similar combinations of global warming and expanding dead zones. All of these events caused widespread extinction. We will undertake the first study of the effect that global warming, changes in ocean circulation, and expansion of the oxygen-starved dead zones had on these early modern marine ecosystems. We will determine, for the first time, how the structure of these ecosystems changed through time, and in particular how well they functioned, in response to changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, we will evaluate whether there been an improvement in the resistance of marine ecosystems to extinction and collapse brought on by changes in temperature, ocean circulation and available oxygen. We will undertake these detailed studies to discover for the first time how the structure and function of marine ecosystems, from the seafloor to the ocean surface, responded to environmental changes. In order to address these questions, we will undertake a series of linked studies at two contrasting scales: (a) global-scale analyses of marine ecosystem response to long-term changes in global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen levels; and (b) local-scale, high-resolution analyses of ecosystem response to local environmental changes in dissolved temperature, oxygen concentration, and ocean circulation. Local-scale analyses will involve field expeditions to sites in UK, Europe, America and the Arctic that are known to contain a detailed record through four key events in our study interval. Global-scale analyses will involve ecological study of published information and museum collections of all known marine taxa that existed through the Mesozoic. The results from our multidisciplinary study will represent a step-change in our understanding of the role(s) that environmental changes in temperature, ocean circulation and levels of dissolved oxygen had on the structure, function and early evolution of modern marine ecosystems.

Publications

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Danise S (2012) Marine community dynamics through the Early Toarcian (early Jurassic) global warming event in Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs

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Danise S (2014) The response of marine benthic communities to increased pCO2 and temperature in the early Toarcian in The Paleontological Society Special Publications

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/I005641/1 01/04/2011 31/05/2014 £453,223
NE/I005641/2 Transfer NE/I005641/1 27/06/2014 31/12/2015 £52,784
 
Description MEC: Palaeontological Association Research Grant Scheme
Amount £6,168 (GBP)
Organisation Palaeontological Association 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2012 
End 12/2013
 
Description RJT: Plymouth University Undergraduate Research Bursary
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Plymouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 08/2013
 
Description SD: Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowships for Career Development
Amount € 282,109 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2017
 
Description SD: Palaeontological Association Research Grant
Amount £6,665 (GBP)
Organisation Palaeontological Association 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 12/2014
 
Description SD: The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Award
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description WF: IGCP 572 Travel Grant
Amount $442 (USD)
Organisation United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 05/2012 
End 06/2012
 
Description WF: JSPS Summer Programme
Amount ¥835,000 (JPY)
Organisation Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) 
Sector Learned Society
Country Japan
Start 06/2014 
End 08/2014
 
Description WF: Palaeontological Association Travel Grant
Amount £750 (GBP)
Organisation Palaeontological Association 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2014
 
Description WF: Plymouth Marine Education Fund
Amount £300 (GBP)
Organisation University of Plymouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2014
 
Title Foster and Twitchett P-Tr Ecospace data 
Description A database of the ecological traits of all Late Permian to Middle Triassic benthic marine fossil genera known to date and their geographic and temporal occurrences. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This led directly tohigh profile outputs including a paper in Nature Geoscience; the approach is being copied by other groups worldwide analysing other events in the rock record; it is forming the basis of future research proposals. 
URL http://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.824825
 
Description Leeds_Jurassic 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Incorporating partner's unpublished data into our analyses, which led directly to significant, high profile publications led by us; hosting undergraduate student for summer research project and mentoring her early career development through her first conference presentations and publication; inviting partner to present with the group at conferences
Collaborator Contribution Providing unpublished data for our analyses; co-authoring publications; writing letters of support for early career researchers in our group
Impact Publications: Danise et al. (2013) PLoS ONE 8(2): e56255. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056255; Pugh et al., Geoscience in Southwest England (2015); Danise et al., Geology (2015); Dunhill et al., 2017; Dunhill et al., 2018 Conference presentations: Ussher's Society Annual Conference January 2014; Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting December 2012 and 2013; CRES Conference Plymouth November 2013; Long-term Coevolution of Life and the Planet meeting, London, November 2014 (2 oral and 1 poster presentation); GSA Annual Meeting, October 2012 Unpublished Report (Pugh 2013) Career development: undergraduate student successfully gained PhD position Multidiciplinary: palaeontology, geology, geochemistry
Start Year 2012
 
Description Madrid_Toarcian 
Organisation Complutense University of Madrid
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution joint field work; sampling of sections for fossil invertebrate, microfossil and geochemical analyses; undertaking palaeoecological and geochemical studies; taxonomy of fossils
Collaborator Contribution Field logistics; joint fieldwork in northern and central Spain; hosting group members in Madrid; discussion of data
Impact Multdisciplinary: palaeontology, geology, geochemistry Stable Isotope analyses samples; Trace Element analyses; Palaeocological analyses Paper accepted pending revisions (Danise et al., Palaeo3) Conference presentation: 10th North American Palaeontological Convention, Gainesville, Florida. Somes of the samples formed basis of a Bachelor thesis at the University of Innsbruck (AU). Title of the project: Benthic foraminiferal response to the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event in Spain Manuscripts in preparation
Start Year 2012
 
Description Nagoya_Triassic 
Organisation Nagoya University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Undertaken collaborative field studies with colleagues in Japan; using our expertise and resources for analysis; sumitting co-authored manuscripts
Collaborator Contribution Hosting members of the group and related students; providing bench space and facilities; covering postage and other consumables; providing logistic support; submitting co-authored manuscripts
Impact JSPS-funded summer studentship for William Foster (2014) fieldtrips in 2011 and 2014 Manuscript in review with Zoological Science
Start Year 2011
 
Description Boreal Triassic II conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Twitchett and Foster attended this major international conference on the Triassic of the Arctic and authored or co-authored talks and posters, which sparked discussions and questions afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://foreninger.uio.no/ngf/Boreal2/index.html
 
Description Danise PalAss 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference oral presentation at Annual meeting of Palaeontological Association: S. Danise, M.E. Clemence, G. Price, J.J. Gómez, R.J. Twitchett. 2018. Stratigraphic and environmental control on marine benthic community change through the early Toarcian extinction event (Iberian Range, Spain). 62nd Annual Meeting of the Palaeontological Association, Programme and Abstracts p. 31 (ORAL PRESENTATION). Audience of ca. 150. Sparked questions and discussion afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Danise: Geoscience Colloquium Series, University fo Georgia, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk on fossil record of Mesozoic marine reptile dead falls which sparked a number of questions and follow up contact from several undergraduate students about opportunities to work on the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Danise: Swedish Museum of Natural History seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited research seminar given during a workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dorchester Museum talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact presentation to 100 members of the general public on the Late Triassic extinction event which sparked questions and discussion afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EGU General Assembly, Vienna 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The largest Geoscience meeting in Europe. Danise co-chaired a session and Twitchett and Danise co-authored a presentation, all of which sparked questions and discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://projectmarest.weebly.com/news/symposium-at-the-2015-egu-conservation-stratigraphic-palaeobiol...
 
Description Foster: CRES conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

students volunteered to be involved with project as field assistants
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2014
 
Description Foster: DeFord Lecture Series, University of Texas, Austin 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Foster: NERC Spring School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

discussions of potential collaborations and project overlap
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Foster: Oklahoma State University Departmental Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited departmental seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Foster: SW Regional Group meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion

audience expressed enjoyment at learning more about advances in field
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Foster: departmental seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion

audience expressed enjoyament at learning more about topic
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Foster: radio interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact live discussion on air

stimualted public interest in our publication
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The major international geological conference on the calendar. Twitchett co-chaired an all day symposium; gave a talk; co-authored posters with Foster; with Belben and colleagues at NHM and Birkbeck; with colleagues from BAS, Leeds, NHM (Fossilblitz). Danise gave a presentation; Foster gave a keynote presentation. All activities sparked a number of questions and discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Manchester GA talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited lecture to discuss past global warming and extinctions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Press release for Geology paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press release for the Geology 2015 paper that also featured on the museum pages
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/science-news/2015/march/fossils-used-to-predict-impact-of-global-wa...
 
Description Price and Clemence: Leading NERC Spring School Fieldtrip 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact fieldtrip sparked questions, debate and discussion

Increase in requests for further information. Plans made for future related activity. Audience reported change in views
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Slater IPC 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation: S. Slater, R.J. Twitchett, S. Danise, V.Vajda. 2018. Abrupt ecosystem changes during an Early Jurassic (Toarcian) global warming episode. Fifth International Palaeontological Congress, Abstract with Programme, p. 559. (ORAL PRESENTATION). Sparked questions and discussion afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Twitchett RJ: 25th Anniversary Talk of the Cambridgeshire Geology Club 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk title: Turning up the heat on the Late Permian extinction event. Talk sparked questions and discussion

After my talk audience members reported that they enjoyed hearing about the latest developments in the science that previously they were unaware of.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2011
 
Description Twitchett RJ: SW Regional Group talk (Torbay school) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk title: mass extinction. Talk sparked questions and discussion

After the activity audience members expressed enjoyment at learning about something new
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Twitchett and Foster: Yorkshire Fossil Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Show-and-tell specimens sparked questions, discussions, and general enthusaism for the science

A number of teachers and pupils returned on subsequent days to find out more
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Twitchett: Biology seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussions afterwards

students approached me for further information; potential for collaborative projects explored
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Twitchett: Dorset County Museum talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

After the talk on global warming and mass extinction events, the audience expressed enjoyment at learning more about the past and its implications for the future
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Twitchett: Invited keynote GSA Annual Meeting, Seattle, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited keynote talk in a topical symposium dedicated to citizen science in palaeontology
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2017AM/webprogram/Paper298954.html
 
Description Twitchett: Lyell Meeting 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussions

potentials for collaborations explored
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2014
 
Description Twitchett: NERC Spring School seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion

Potential links and collaborations explored
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Twitchett: Nature Communications press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release was picked up by national and international media outlets to promote Nature Communications article (Nature Communciations, 5:4789, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5789)

Stimulated a large number of tweets, blogs and views of the article, which resulted in an Altmetric score of 92, placing it in the 99th percentile of all articles ever tracked by Altmetrics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140910/ncomms5789/metrics
 
Description Twitchett: Nature Geoscience press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release was picked up by national and international media outlets, including NERC's Planet Earth Online providing international promotion of the Nature Geoscience article (Nature Geoscience, 7, 233-238. doi:10.1038/NGEO2079)

led to increase in views, tweets, and blogs about the article raising its profile
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=1629
 
Description Twitchett: PlosOne press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release was picked up by national and international media outlets in order to publicise the publication of our article in PLoS ONE (PLoS ONE 8(2): e56255. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056255)

Notable increase in tweets, blogs, and views of article
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130219140508.htm
 
Description Twitchett: St Andrews FRESH Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards

led to new collaborations; some students asked if they could undertake PhDs with me
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Twitchett: Swedish Museum of Natural History 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited seminar during research workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Twitchett: UCL research seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited departmental research seminar on marine ecosystems in hothouse worlds, which sparked questions and follow up discussions with several academics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Twitchett: Vienna research seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion

led to new collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Twitchett: research seminar Frankfurt 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion

potential collaborations discussed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Twitchett: research seminar UCD 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact talk sparked questions and discussion afetrwards

audience members requested further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013