Lecture: Steve Hale—Biodiversity of Narragansett Bay: What 182 Years of Sampling Bottom Invertebrates Has Revealed

Steve Hale

Steve Hale

Stephen Hale, Research Ecologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Narragansett, will talk about historical trends in biodiversity of the benthos (animals such as worms, clams, and crabs living on and in seafloor sediments) of Narragansett Bay. The lecture takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday, September 28, at the Natural History Survey office, URI East Farm, Building 14, Kingston, RI.

The Bay has a high biodiversity of bottom-dwelling invertebrates, holding almost 1,200 taxa from 21 different phyla, about two-thirds of all animal phyla on Earth. This biodiversity drives crucial ecosystem processes such as production of seafood, recycling of nutrients, and processing of human wastes. However, human activities have led to rapid declines in biodiversity of marine ecosystems both locally and worldwide. Species collected by 99 studies, beginning with Joseph Totten’s 1834–1835 mollusk collections in Newport Harbor (incidental to his day job of building Fort Adams) showed that biodiversity of the bottom invertebrate community gradually deteriorated over two centuries in the face of increasing human-caused stressors (too much nitrogen, phosphorus, toxic pollutants, and warming waters). As some of those stressors waned over the last two or three decades, the benthos has shown a partial recovery. NBBenthosDiagramOther early studies include visits by the renowned taxonomists Joseph Leidy of the University of Pennsylvania in 1855 and Addison Verrill of Yale University, 1870s–1880s. The most local was Alexander Agassiz of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, who established the Newport Marine Zoological Laboratory at Castle Hill in 1873, the first marine lab on Narragansett Bay. These studies highlighted the rich biodiversity of that time.




7 p.m.


Natural History Survey, URI East Farm, Building 14, Kingston, RI

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