How a collaborative integrated taxonomic effort has trained new spongiologists and improved knowledge of Martinique Island (French Antilles, eastern Caribbean Sea) marine biodiversity

Thierry Pérez, Maria Cristina Díaz, César Ruiz, Baslavi Cóndor-Luján, Michelle Klautau, Eduardo Hajdu, Gisele Lobo-Hajdu, Sven Zea, Shirley A. Pomponi, Robert W. Thacker, Sophie Carteron, Guillaume Tollu, Adeline Pouget-Cuvelier, Philippe Thélamon, Jean Philippe Marechal, Olivier P. Thomas, Alexander V. Ereskovsky, Jean Vacelet, Nicole Boury-Esnault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although sponges are important components of benthic ecosystems of the Caribbean Sea, their diversity remained poorly investigated in the Lesser Antilles. By organizing a training course in Martinique, we wanted both to promote taxonomy and to provide a first inventory of the sponge diversity on this island. The course was like a naturalist expedition, with a field laboratory and a classroom nearby. Early-career scientists and environmental managers were trained in sponge taxonomy. We gathered unpublished data and conducted an inventory at 13 coastal sites. We explored only shallow water habitats (0-30 m), such as mangroves, reefs or rocky bottoms and underwater caves. According to this study, the sponge fauna of Martinique is currently represented by a minimum of 191 species, 134 of which we could assign species names. One third of the remaining non-identified sponge species we consider to be new to science. Martinique appears very remarkable because of its littoral marine fauna harboring sponge aggregations with high biomass and species diversitydominating over coral species. In mangroves, sponges cover about 10% of the surface of subtidal roots. Several submarine caves are true reservoirs of hidden and insufficiently described sponge diversity. Thanks to this new collaborative effort, the Eastern Caribbean has gained a significant increase of knowledge, with sponge diversity of this area potentially representing 40% of the total in the Caribbean Sea. We thus demonstrated the importance of developing exploratory and educational research in areas historically devoid of biodiversity inventories and systematics studies. Finally, we believe in the necessity to consider not only the number of species but their distribution in space to evaluate their putative contribution to ecosystem services and our willingness to preserve them.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173859
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2017

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