Dr Lara Atkinson, South African Environmental Observation Network
Dr Kerry Sink, South African National Botanical Institute
Sustainable utilisation requires baseline knowledge against which long-term change can be measured. South Africa’s deepsea biodiversity was considered poorly studied with 83% of samples collected shallower than 100m and marine invertebrates constituting the group most in need of taxonomic effort. Over the past decade, research institutes have collaborated with fisheries research trawl surveys to build South Africa’s foundational offshore invertebrate knowledge. To date, nearly 17 000 deepsea invertebrate occurrence records have been captured and more than 400 taxa identified through collaborations with taxonomists and researchers. This information has been compiled into a field guide and database used by researchers and students. Thus far, 14 additional species were recorded in South Africa for the first time and 20 species that are new to science were discovered and are now being described. Research outputs are being applied across the biodiversity value chain, supporting additional taxonomic publications, first quantitative descriptions of offshore ecosystem types, mapping of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, development of proposed Spatial Management Measures and contributing towards South Africa’s Blue Economy. Importantly, these data provide a baseline that will enable quantification of future species and ecosystem change to support evidenced-based decision making, in the development of South Africa’s Ocean Economy.
Dr Lara Atkinson SAEON SA
Dr Lara Atkinson completed her PhD at the University of Cape Town in 2010 on the impacts of demersal trawling in Southern Africa. Since then, she has been working with the South African Environmental Observation Network as the offshore scientist and continues her research on offshore biodiversity, habitats and impacts thereon.
Dr Kerry Sink is a scientist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute. She has advanced foundational biodiversity knowledge through collaborations, industry partnership and deep water research. Her work has been applied through decision support tools for marine spatial planning including the development of a network of proposed new Marine Protected Areas.