U.S. National Science Foundation Project OCE 00-03970

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Annual Report to NOPP Program, 24 Jan 02

Report for:





Taxonomist Partners

Stephen D. Cairns, U.S. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, NHB-l63, W-329 Washington, D. C. 20560 (non-reef-forming scleractinian corals)

Tina N. Molodtsova, Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Moscow, Russia (tube anemones)

John S. Ryland, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales Swansea, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales, UK (zoanthids)

J. E. N. Veron, Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville 4810, Australia (reef-forming corals)

Other Partners:

Laura David, Bits and Parity, and Institute of Marine Science, Manila, Philippines

Students and Staff Participants from the University of Kansas

Adorian Ardelean (Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Natural History Museum)
Keith Hunsinger (Department of Geography)
Casey McLaughlin, Peder Sandhei (Department of Geography and Kansas Geological Survey)
Girmay Misgna, Jeremy Bartley, Kurt Look (Kansas Geological Survey)

Student Participants From Elsewhere:

Hazel Loaring (University of Wales, UK)
Jay Baker (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; participated as a student in the KU REU site)

Institutional Partners:

Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ)

National Coral Reef Institute

NOAA Biogeography Program



As part of the Census of Marine Life, we are creating a taxonomic database to the Hexacorallia (phylum Cnidaria) that adds to the inventory of sea anemones compiled by Fautin all species of orders Ceriantharia (tube anemones; by Molodtsova), Scleractinia ("stony" or "true" corals; by Cairns and Veron), and Zoanthidea (zoanthids; by Ryland).  It will contain three-dimensional distribution data (including geospatial precision of each record) and bibliographic reference to description of each species.  Syngraph, an application by Ardelean, permits retrieval of data by synonyms of a species, flagging taxonomic and nomenclatural problems.  Interacting with this database of organisms are physicochemical and ecological databases important to marine biogeography. The core environmental databases were assembled as part of the UNEP/GEF-funded program within the LOICZ (IGBP) Typology effort.  We are developing and adapting tools to allow interactive analyses of the biological and environmental data, including by visualization on map displays. This project is: linking across spatial scales; greatly augmenting the minimal biogeographic data available for most benthic marine invertebrates; allowing formulation and testing of biogeography and biodiversity models; and supporting forecasting and hindcasting of distribution changes due to environmental change.



Complete inventories have been entered for all species except those of Scleractinia; they are available on the project website (these data are at www.kgs.ku.edu/Hexacoral/Biodata/index.html).  This was made possible through a workshop in November 2000, when all the taxonomists except Veron, in addition to Hazel Loaring, met in Lawrence, Kansas, for three days to discuss project goals and obtain training on data entry.  Since then, Molodtsova twice spent one month in Kansas, completing entry for all cerianthids, Loaring returned for a second visit, and David visited Lawrence three times to learn the system and enter data.  As the largest taxon of Hexacorallia and the one with the largest literature and most complex taxonomy, Scleractinia is taking longer to complete, but will be done well before the end of the project.

Data for over 100 biologically relevant environmental parameters are available on the project website (these data are at www.kgs.ku.edu/Hexacoral/Envirodata/envirodata.html).   These data can be selected in various ways, edited, and filtered; statistics can be done on them, and correlations among them can provide information on how they interact and which are most appropriate for particular purposes.

The environmental and biological databases are interactive, so it is possible to determine the environmental parameters that characterize a locality from which a particular organism has been recorded.  This function is currently available for only the small proportion of species for which georeferenced records are available, but that number is growing rapidly.  Interactivity between biological and environmental databases is central to several presentations that will be made by participants in the Hexacorallia OBIS project at the Ocean Science meetings in Honolulu, February 2002.

The environmental database of the Hexacorallia project is interoperable with CephBase (www.cephbase.dal.ca/), and links with the central OBIS server and other OBIS projects are being established.  Although the taxonomic lists are peculiar to the various taxa, the environment is in common, and so a single database can serve the needs of all projects.  This allows, in addition, determining which species of various taxa co-occur.  In November 2001, PI Fautin, aided by co-PI Buddemeier, hosted a workshop attended by representatives of all eight OBIS projects to link to an OBIS portal, with the objective of interoperatiblity among the projects.

Interoperability is also being established with NMITA, the Neogene Marine Biota of Tropical America (porites.geology.uiowa.edu/), an online biotic database containing images and data for taxa used in analyses of Tropical American biodiversity over the past 25 million years.  This will add evolutionary time to the dimensions that can be analyzed through the Hexacorallia site.


The potential for obtaining data on and visualizing geographical distributions of organisms and environmental variables that influence and even control their distribution has great importance for various activities.  Commercial activities such as fishing and tourism can benefit by such data.  Representatives of conservation agencies can determine which areas are most in need of protection for reasons such as because they are taxonomically rich or because they are habitats essential to particular taxa.  Biological invasions can be detected and, it is hoped, prevented.  Academic research on ecological richness, evolution of biota, and biogeography all can made use of the rich store of data made available through this project.