TNRTB Archive – Retained for reference information
Marine biologists have uncovered a new design feature for the support of advanced life. Their studies of marine invertebrate communities reveal that sediment bioturbation—that is, biogenic mixing of seafloor sediment—determines the level of sediment oxygen concentration. This concentration, in turn, determines both the biomass and nutrient regeneration for marine coastal ecosystems. Their research showed that the extinction of only a few marine invertebrate species could significantly lower sediment bioturbation—leading to a dramatic drop in the biomass and nutrient budgets for marine coastal ecosystems. Since such ecosystems are the most productive on Earth and are globally important for climate regulation and for sustaining marine food production, the maintenance of high levels of sediment bioturbation is critical for sustaining advanced life. This conclusion implies a new design feature: species that efficiently mix seafloor sediments must exist and they must exist at high enough population levels in order for advanced life to be possible.
- Martin Solan et al., “Extinction and Ecosystem Function in the Marine Benthos,” Science 306 (2004): 1177-80.
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