Emiliano wants to assess the importance of kelp forest ecosystems to sharks, and is using San Quentin Bay in Baja, California, to understand their value. He aims to show how changes in kelp forest communities might impact sharks under future climate scenarios. Using horn sharks and banded guitarfish as model species, Emiliano is analysing where sharks sit in the kelp forest food pyramid. He is also estimating the diversity and abundance of shark species, and hopes to show how a changing community structure in kelp forests as a result of climate change could affect sharks and rays.
I grew up in Veracruz, a coastal city in tropical south-eastern Mexico. As a child I looked for any excuse to go to the beach to see what the local fishers had brought in from the sea. It was there that I discovered sharks and rays, and from that moment I knew I wanted to study these species. That became my motivation to pursue a degree in marine biology. After I graduated, I moved to north-western Mexico to study for my Master’s and worked with blue shark fisheries in the region. While studying for my doctorate, I developed a project...
To understand the trophic importance of kelp forest for elasmobranchs (focusing on Data Deficient species) and to evaluate how changes to this habitat due to climate change could affect these species.
Kelp forest is one of the habitats most threatened by climate change. It is also used by elasmobranchs, but we do not fully understand its trophic importance to these species. We therefore do not know how the structure of the community within the kelp forest may change as a result of intensified impacts of climate change and how elasmobranchs in particular may be affected.
Kelp forest is a very productive and biodiverse habitat that is important for fishing, coastal protection, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. It is, however, also very vulnerable to warming events, which cause declines in the abundance of the kelp and changes in the structure, function and resilience of the forest. Recent studies have shown that kelp forests along the Baja California peninsula experienced significant changes in their trophic levels and community structure as a result of warming events, which are likely to intensify in the future. Some elasmobranch species use kelp forest, but its importance has not been explored fully, so we do not yet understand the effect that warming events have on the elasmobranchs in kelp forest. This project aims to evaluate the trophic importance of kelp forest in the San Quintin Bay area, using the horn shark and banded guitarfish as model species. We will estimate the abundance and diversity of elasmobranch species in kelp forest and use the results of our study to get a better understanding of how changes in the community structure of the forest caused by warming events may affect these species.
Outside the USA, The Bahamas is the only place where Critically Endangered smalltooth sawfish can reliably be found. Tristan wants to ensure that protection measures in The Bahamas are understood and enforced as far as sawfish are concerned to close the current gap between policy and the people. He’ll be using aerial surveys, sonar and BRUVs, combined with interviews that draw on local knowledge, to identify essential sawfish habitats that need protection. Engaging with the community through workshops and by training students and meeting with government, Tristan intends to advocate for smalltooth sawfish protection throughout The Bahamas’ territorial waters.
Steven and Kevin are using genetic techniques to understand how Caribbean reef shark populations are connected across the extent of their range. Populations of this Endangered shark are in decline generally, but where they are managed and there is effective protection, their numbers are stable. With the integration of the correct information, Steven and Kevin are convinced that we can give Caribbean reef sharks a better shot at recovery and population stabilisation. They will also explore any barriers to connectivity, looking to the future recruitment and recovery of these sharks.
With very little information available about Endangered sicklefin devil rays, their seasonal aggregations at sea mounts in the Azores give Sophie an opportunity to learn more about their lives. She will be collecting satellite-tracking data that show how they move in the Azores’ exclusive economic zone. The information she collects will be used to develop maps of how the rays are using the zone and to identify essential areas that multiple species use. With this information at hand, Sophie hopes her work can contribute to a network of marine protected areas.