I’m an ocean scientist working on the community ecology of the remote deep sea, the largest yet least explored environment on Earth.
With virtually no light, average temperatures ranging from 0 to 4ºC and astonishing crushing pressures reaching 1100 bars, the deep ocean was thought to be devoid of life until 150 years ago. However, life is virtually present throughout this dark, cold and vast realm. Indeed, ninety-five percent of the habitable volume of our planet belongs to the deep sea and yet as little as the 5% has been studied. Deep-sea research thus is intimately related with exploration. The deep sea truly is the last great wilderness on Earth.
I study a range of extraordinary deep-sea habitats founded at hundreds if not thousands meter depth: from the animal communities that thrive in sunk whale carcasses to those inhabiting volcanic hotsprings venting at temperatures of up to 400ºC.
Novel knowledge is reached through study and research, which both imply not to fear constant opinion change.
I'm particularly interested in understanding the role of energy, environmental stress and biological interactions as drivers of deep-sea biodiversity and its spatial and temporal patterns. My research focus on chemosynthetic-based communities, such as those inhabiting sunken whale carcasses and hydrothermal vents. I use these communities as natural research laboratories benefiting from their steep energetic and environmental gradients to test ecological hypothesis.
The deep ocean is as vast as poorly understood and in a such context knowledge is prone to paradigms and misleading generalizations. Contrary to shallow-water and terrestrial ecology and due to financial and accessibility constrains, deep ocean science has been historically descriptive. Major technological advances in the lasts decades however allow nowadays the performance of experimental and hypothesis-based studies in the deep sea. I believe that proper and effective responses to major challenges, such as climate change and industrial impacts, can only be addressed from a modern scientific perspective including experimental approaches and robust statistical methods to test ecological theory.
The strength of my research lies in the breadth and depth of the experimental and statistical approaches I utilize to understand the mechanisms that drive the systems I am studying, from species to functional traits and isotopic analyses.
Learn more about my research projects below.
BIODIVERSITY AND ECOLOGY OF DEEP-SEA CHEMOSYNTHETIC COMMUNITIES
DEEP-SEA COMMUNITY AND FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY
BIOGEOGRAPHY OF DEEP-SEA CHEMOSYNTHETIC COMMUNITIES
What do deep sunken whale carcasses, wood logs and hydrothermal vents have in common? Although it may be hard to believe these habitats form island-like communities in the muddy deep sea, chemosynthesis forms the trophic base of their faunal communities and they share fauna. The poorly knowledge of these habitats precludes our understanding on their ecological relationships, which is of paramount importance for their effective protection.
For decades, community ecology focused on species and their relationships with the environment. This is still especially true in deep sea ecology and, in consequence, the uncountable production of case-specific studies prevent the statement of generalities and ecological theories. A modern ecological approach including the analysis of functional diversity is needed to produce more ecological meaningful statements and to better understand the processes and mechanisms underlying species distributions. Chemosynthetic-based communities are ideal systems to test community assembly theory in the deep sea.
We still have a very limited understanding on the biogeography of deep chemo-based communities. An holistic approach considering different habitats (vents, whale falls, etc) and biodiversity facets (species, functional entities) is needed to fully understand their patterns and drivers of diversity and the ecosystem services they provide worldwide.
September 2020 - Current
Institution: Senckenberg Research Institute, Germany.
Role: Creation of a marine Arctic species database extracting and cleaning species records from OBIS and GBIF. Data analyses including biogeography and biodiversity estimates along latitude and depth gradients in the Arctic Ocean and the NW Pacific.
Institution: Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), France.
Thesis: Influence of hydrothermal activity and substratum types on faunal colonization processes in
Institution: Oceanographic Institute of the University of São Paulo (IO-USP), Brazil
Thesis: Community structure and ecology of the worldwide deepest and first deep-sea Atlantic whale-fall community: implications for the stepping-stone hypothesis and whale-fall biogeography.
Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Barcelona
Joan M Alfaro-Lucas, Florence Pradillon, Daniela Zeppilli, Loïc N. Michel, Pedro Martinez-Arbizu, Hayato Tanaka, Martin Foviaux, Jozée Sarrazin. 2020. High environmental stress and productivity enhance functional richness along a deep-sea hydrothermal vent gradient. Ecology 00(00): e03144.
Maurício Shimabukuro, Joan M. Alfaro-Lucas, Angelo F. Bernardino, Raissa B. Ramos, Michel M. Mahiques, Paulo Y.G. Sumida. 2020. Chemosynthetic ecosystems on the Brazilian deep-sea margin. In book: Brazilian Deep-Sea Biodiversity. P.Y.G Sumida, A.F., Bernardino, & F., De Leo (Eds). Springer, Switzerland.
Mauricio Shimabukuro, Orlemir Carrerette, Joan M Alfaro-Lucas, Alexandra E Rizzo, Kenneth M Halanych, Paulo YG Sumida. 2019. Diversity, distribution and phylogeny of Hesionidae (Annelida) colonizing whale falls: new species of Sirsoe and connections between ocean basins. Frontiers in Marine Science 6: 478
Joan M Alfaro-Lucas, Maurício Shimabukuro, Isabella V Ogata, Yoshihiro Fujiwara, Paulo YG Sumida. 2018. Trophic structure and chemosynthesis contributions to heterotrophic fauna inhabiting an abyssal whale carcass. Marine Ecology Progress Series 596:1-12
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