PANAMEX 2018 Update

Submitted by Gail Ashton

In 2018 MarineGEO and partners initiated the Pan-American Experimental Macroecology Initiative (PanAmEx), a network to examine broad-scale ecological patterns and processes across coastal marine ecosystems of the Americas. In partnership with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Temple University, PanAmEx has engaged a network of researchers throughout the region to implement streamlined, standardized, and replicated experiments to address big questions. The objective of the first experiment, launched in 2018, is to assess latitudinal variation—from the tropics to near the poles—in key demographic processes and interactions in marine benthic fouling communities, including recruitment, community composition, and the influence of predators. 

PanAmEx settling plates in
predation exclosure cages near 
Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Photo by Janina Seemann.

Eighteen sites in the northern hemisphere completed the experiment in summer of 2018, and materials are currently being shipped to ~18 sites in the southern hemisphere for deployment in early 2019. Preliminary results are exciting, indicating a latitudinal gradient in both the intensity of predation and the response of the benthic community. Future analyses will interrogate the nature of this relationship, extend it into the southern hemisphere, and test the relative importance of major environmental change variables measured at all sites.