Deep-sea biodiversity, a source of critical ecological functions and ecosystem services, is increasingly subject to the threat of disturbance from existing practices (e.g., fishing, waste disposal, oil and gas extraction) as well as emerging industries such as deep-seabed mining. Current scientific tools may not be adequate for monitoring and assessing subsequent changes to biodiversity.
Bioindication has become an indispensable part of water quality monitoring in most countries of the world, with the presence and abundance of bioindicator taxa, mostly multicellular eukaryotes, used for biotic indices. In contrast, microbes (bacteria, archaea and protists) are seldom used as bioindicators in routine assessments, although they have been recognized for their importance in environmental processes.
The last decade brought a spectacular development of so-called environmental (e)DNA studies. In general, “environmental DNA” is defined as DNA isolated from environmental samples, in opposition to genomic DNA that is extracted directly from specimens. However, the variety of different sources of eDNA and the range of taxonomic groups that are targeted by eDNA studies is large, which has led to some discussion about the breadth of the eDNA concept.
A decade after environmental scientists integrated high-throughput sequencing technologies in their toolbox, the genomics-based monitoring of anthropogenic impacts on the biodiversity and functioning of ecosystems is yet to be implemented by regulatory frameworks. Despite the broadly acknowledged potential of environmental genomics to this end, technical limitations and conceptual issues still stand in the way of its broad application by end-users.
Classical biomonitoring techniques have focused primarily on measures linked to various biodiversity metrics and indicator species. Next-generation biomonitoring (NGB) describes a suite of tools and approaches that allow the examination of a broader spectrum of organizational levels—from genes to entire ecosystems. Here, we frame 10 key questions that we envisage will drive the field of NGB over the next decade.
The deep ocean below 200 m water depth is the least observed, but largest habitat on our planet by volume and area. Over 150 years of exploration has revealed that this dynamic system provides critical climate regulation, houses a wealth of energy, mineral, and biological resources, and represents a vast repository of biological diversity. A long history of deep-ocean exploration and observation led to the initial concept for the Deep-Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS), under the auspices of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). Here we discuss the scientific need for globally ntegrated deep-ocean observing, its status, and the key scientific questions and societal mandates driving observing requirements over the next decade.
Aquatic biomonitoring has become an essential task in Europe and many other regions as a consequence of strong anthropogenic pressures affecting the health of lakes, rivers, oceans and groundwater. A typical assessment of the environmental quality status, such as it is required by European but also North American and other legislation, relies on matching the composition of assemblages of organisms identified using morphological criteria present in aquatic ecosystems to those expected in the absence of anthropogenic pressures.
The bioassessment of aquatic ecosystems is currently based on various biotic indices that use the occurrence and/or abundance of selected taxonomic groups to define ecological status. These conventional indices have some limitations, often related to difficulties in morphological identification of bioindicator taxa.
The effectiveness of environmental protection measures is based on the early identification and diagnosis of anthropogenic pressures. Similarly, restoration actions require precise monitoring of changes in the ecological quality of ecosystems, in order to highlight their effectiveness. Monitoring the ecological quality relies on bioindicators, which are organisms revealing the pressures exerted on the environment through the composition of their communities.