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FAUNAL TAXONOMY

An important role of AQUAFACT’s is to monitor the effect of human influences on biodiversity. In order to assess these influences it is first necessary to characterise the flora and fauna of a region and to obtain a basic understanding of species, biodiversity and evolution. Following a decline in taxonomic training for many years, the discipline has recently experienced a revival fuelled by exploration of deep-sea environments and the subsequent discovery of countless new species of animals.

AQUAFACT is the leading consultancy company in Ireland in the field of marine and freshwater invertebrate taxonomy. Our in-house specialists and consultants cover such diverse groups as sponges, coelenterates, polychaetes, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms, bryozoans, tunicates, minor invertebrate phyla, hirudinea, platyhelminthes, insecta, arachnida, fish and birds. All our specialists are experts in their fields and regularly publish reviews and revisions of their specific taxa in international journals. We are currently developing our taxonomic capacity into deeper water habitats.

Clarification of coastal communities

The majority of environmental work in Ireland is concentrated in shallow (<200 m) coastal waters. Interactive keys for several families of Amphipoda (Crustacea) are currently available on www.amphipoda.com , and www.algaebase.org provides information on more than 100,000 algal species. However, there is a paucity of up-to-date definitive resources for other shallow-water taxa. We recognise the need for collation of national databases and published material in order to produce regional checklists, maps and user-friendly interactive keys to ensure accurate identification of biota by workers in the field. Plans are in train to develop a proposal to the Marine Institute on building up the national expertise in this area and discussions have already been had with NUI Galway, GMIT and UCC.

 

Developments in the Deep-Sea

Further to clarifying coastal communities, we are currently developing our taxonomic capabilities in deeper waters. The deep-sea is one of the largest and least explored ecosystems on earth and is a major reservoir of biodiversity and evolutionary novelty. Recent initiatives by the Marine Institute and the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) have resulted in exciting new opportunities for research in the deep-sea, with recognition of the need to develop taxonomic skills at this level.

Collaborations with researchers in the field will provide baseline studies upon which to build our knowledge of deep-sea ecosystems in future years.