Our work will focus on the subantarctic region, specifically within the Indian and Atlantic sectors of the Southern Ocean. This region sustains an exceptionally diverse marine megafauna guild but is also faced by a growing socio-economic concern (fishing) as well as multilateral political interests. Not yet commercially exploited, the subantarctic mesopelagic living resources represent a huge planetary stock of proteins which will likely play a role in the near future food security.
Processes that drive ecosystem structure occur at the so-called fine scale regime (1-100 km). However, open ocean management tries to bypass this issue by zoning the ocean at much larger scales than may actually be needed. This approach however is sub-optimal, because it forces to implement a policy on orders of spatial magnitude larger than what would be really needed if information of ecological relevant fine scale features and their range of variability would be available. This will be achieved by answering the following questions:
1) what are the biophysical mechanisms by which some of the ocean fine scale features (but not all) structure the pelagic ecosystems?
2) which indices can be extracted from biological and physical oceanographic data to geographically identify ecological relevant fine scale features, their persistence, and their spatial range of variability?
We will integrate marine biophysical data, analysed with novel Lagrangian analysis techniques to elucidate fine scale areas of ecological interest. Animal telemetry data will then be used to identify those features of interest to higher trophic species, whose characteristics we can then identify in regions where telemetry data do not exist. This concept of fine scale processes as important drivers of ecosystem structure will be brought into the management arena through the presentation of our results to relevant management organisations such as CCAMLR, for further consideration in spatial conservation planning.