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Meiobenthology pp 417-422 | Cite as

Retrospect on Meiobenthology and Outlook on New Approaches and Future Research

Summarizing the short history of meiofaunal studies, this closing chapter on meiobenthology is certainly somewhat subjective. Meiobenthology can be largely grouped into periods with dominant research “trends.” There are, of course, many individual publications that do not really fit into this gross categorization of meiofaunal research, but most of the papers seem to follow certain lines which are defined by the scientific standard of the time and by contentions about fields of major importance.
  • Nineteenth century until the end of the 1950s. Taxonomic and faunistic papers; microscope studies; establishment of the special character of many meiobenthic animals; attempts to define meiobenthos “coenoses” (stable communities) based on sediment structure.

  • 1960 into the 1970s. Descriptive ecology of the meiobenthic habitat (abundance, distribution); analysis of abiotic factors (restricted to the technically more simple parameters) and their distributional impacts; first experimental work on meiobenthic animals.

  • 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s. Experimental work, tolerance-preference tests; first studies on “difficult” abiotic parameters like the oxygen/sulfide complex and its impact on the distribution; biotic and trophic factors (predator-prey interactions); ultrastructure studies with respect to phylogenetic implications.

  • 1980s into the 1990s. Manipulative ecology as an aid to understanding the role of meiofauna in benthic ecosystems; calculations of production and energy flow; meiofauna in special biotopes like the deep-sea and sulfidic environments; recolonization and dispersive mechanisms of meiofauna, impact of pollution on meiofauna; life history assays.

  • End of 1990s to 2010(?). Three major domains appear dominant.

  1. (1)

    Biodiversity, its assessment and conservation: characterizing “hot spots” of meiofauna biodiversity; work on diversity-relevant factors (habitat complexity); impact of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on diversity.

     
  2. (2)

    Incorporating the potential of computerization: compilation of computer-assisted databases and networks on meiofauna; development of electronic identification keys.

     
  3. (3)

    Molecular genetics: phylogenetic relations and evolution of taxa; distributional patterns and their genetic background; coherence of remote populations; genetic changes under extreme conditions; genetic alterations induced by pollutants (ecotoxicogenomics); tracing trophic pathways. These are just a few aspects that the powerful tool of molecular genetics is already contributing to meiobenthology. Will they become the main research areas in this century?

     
Many other topics will require continuing studies even after their peaks of interest, but, in general, there is a sequence of problems that are addressed in meiobenthology (and in other fields of biology): What is there? → Where should we look for it? → How much is there? → Why is it there? → What are the resources and threats? → What is its ecological role? → How do we cultivate or protect it? → Which relationships are present (phylogenetic, zoogeographical, ecological, under molecular scrutiny)?

Keywords

Benthic Ecosystem North American Benthological Society Phylogenetic Implication Individual Publication Main Research Area 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

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