Wallace Lecture this evening – Bertrand Richer de Forges on “Marine Biodiversity: Known and Unknown”

Bertrand Richer de Forges
The Wallace Lectures – “Marine Biodiversity: Known and Unknown”
By Dr. Bertrand Richer de Forges

Friday 21 Sep 2012: 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm
At Level 1, Function Hall,
Botany Centre,
Singapore Botanic Gardens

Organised by National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board
and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore
Supported by Shell Singapore

Light refreshments will be served before the talk at 6.30 pm

Synopsis – The deep-sea is one of the largest yet most poorly known ecosystems on Earth. The major part of the abyssal plains (2500-6000m) is covered by fine mud. The habitat conditions here are extreme: no light, high pressures, cold temperatures and with only a small quantity of food. While the overall biomass is small, surprisingly, the species-richness is high. Some parts of the ocean tend to concentrate life: margins of continents and slopes of the islands, seamounts, thermal vents and cold seeps, as well as numerous ecosystems based on organic substrates like skeletons or sunken wood. Most of these are situated in bathyal depths (200-2500m).

In the context of these insights; a panorama of discoveries is presented. It represents an enlightened vision of life in the deep; that it is in fact, everywhere, light is not essential and chemosynthetic systems that start new food webs are widespread, and species diversity is very high in the bathyal zone. The era for deep sea exploration is far from over — there remains much to do.

About the speaker – Dr Bertrand Richer de Forges is a remarkable marine biologist and has often spent his career in remote places sampling biodiversity, discovering new ecosystems and a cornucopia of new species. Since 1984, he has been with the French Institute of Research for Development in New Caledonia. This period corresponds with his substantial involvement in the French MUSORSTOM program to study deep-sea biodiversity. Using different research vessels, he developed new methods to explore the lagoons and deep-sea fauna in New Caledonia. During the same period, he worked in collaboration with Professor Danièle Guinot in Paris (one of the most influential carcinologists of the last 100 years) on deep-sea crabs that resulted in many key papers.

The exploration of New Caledonia was so successful that it was necessary to sample Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomons, Marquesas, Philippines and Taiwan to understand the biogeography of the Pacific. In charge of research programs on marine biodiversity, he had collaborations with colleagues from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan, publishing many papers and books in the process. In a career that has spanned 30 years, he has described over 120 new genera and species, mostly from deep-sea. He has been on the steering committee of the Census of Marine Life on Seamounts, contributing to its success. Among his many discoveries are the discovery of a number of ‘living fossils’, including what has been called the Jurassic Shrimp, Laurentaeglyphea neocaledonia in 2006.

The Wallace Lecture Series was a series of important lectures delivered in the 1960s by well-known biologists in the then University of Malaya. These lectures stimulated discussion and encouraged the exploration of new ideas in systematics, ecology and natural heritage. It seemed especially appropriate and timely that this lecture series, named after one of the two discoverers of the modern theory of evolution, should be “resurrected” to further research interest and activity in Singapore’s rich biodiversity.

This is the second of the Wallace Lecture Series, delivered by an invited Research Scientist brought in by the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore, in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Centre (National Parks Board); and supported by Shell Singapore.

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