Research: PanAmEx

Purpose

The Pan-American Experimental Initiative in Marine Macroecology (PanAmEx) is a new experimental network to examine broad-scale ecological patterns and processes across coastal marine ecosystems of North, Central, and South America. Panamex is coordinated and supported by the Smithsonian Institution (including the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the Smithsonian-led MarineGEO program) and Temple University. The initiative is a collaboration among a network of partner researchers to implement simple, standardized, and replicated experiments that address how ecological processes vary geographically.

The first PanAmEx project, initiated in 2018 and 2019, is an experiment to measure gradients in interaction strength among marine benthic organisms, focusing on how predation affects assembly of communities of fouling organisms. The project’s novelty is its unprecedented scale – across latitudes nearly from pole to pole along the Americas, in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  (Photo credit: Gail Ashton at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.  Photo of marine invertebrate community in San Francisco Bay).

Goal

  • Quantify latitudinal patterns in key demographic processes and community interactions, including recruitment, assemblage composition, and the influence of predation on fouling community development.

Methods

The experiment compares development of fouling communities (sessile invertebrates) on PVC panels that are either exposed or protected from predators (mainly fishes) using cages. The PVC panels are deployed from (preferably floating) docks, providing a simple and standardized substratum for colonization of marine organisms. (Photo credit: Janina Seeman at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Bocas del Toro, Panama).

 

Selected literature

Freestone, A. L., G. M. Rutz, and M. E. Torchin. 2013. Stronger biotic resistance in tropics relative to temperate zone: effects of predation on marine invasion dynamics. Ecology 94:1370–1377.

Freestone, A. L., and R. W. Osman. 2011. Latitudinal variation in local interactions and regional enrichment shape patterns of marine community diversity. Ecology 92:208–217.

Freestone, A. L., R. W. Osman, G. M. Ruiz, and M. E. Torchin. 2011. Stronger predation in the tropics shapes species richness patterns in marine communities. Ecology 92:983–993.