Whale of a time on Cannery Row

Oceanography and Marine Biology
December 8, 1995

A good-quality annual review series provides an important service to the sciences for both the general and the specialist reader. Oceanography and Marine Biology has succeeded in producing one admirably for more than 30 years.

The quality of the paper, the printing and the presentation is excellent. The traditional use of the author, systematic and subject indices in the collection of review papers is comprehensive and reflects creditably on the editorship and, as in all good editorial work, it is not intrusive. The editors have the confidence to limit themselves to a short preface which becomes, effectively, an instruction to potential authors.

The subject matter of the 11 articles in Volume 32 covers a wide range from straight hydrology to cytology and cytochemistry. The first concerns Monterey Bay (better known to the general public as the setting for John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, the place where sea otters cavort in the kelp and as a lookout station for migrating Californian grey whales). There is a complex interaction of cold and warm water currents meeting in a restricted bay near the coast.

This creates an upwelling, release of nutrients and explosive plankton growth with consequent effects on the food chain. The bay has been studied extensively since the 1930s, particularly by the researchers of Scripps Institute. The less numerate of us should draw comfort from the fact that the complex modelling of the circulation patterns based on up-to-date hydrological and satellite imaging techniques amplify and refine rather than contradict earlier work based on limited data.

What is also demonstrated clearly is the influence of water discharge from land sources and the omnipresent, cyclical phenomenon of El Ni$o in creating and affecting this important marine reserve.

Three of the articles are closely related and deal with aspects of soft sediment ecology. The first of these concerned recruitment limitation a problem for planktonic animals metamorphosing and settling in soft sediments is a sophisticated epitaph for the principal author who tragically died while engaged in field work. The second contrasts relationships between the fauna of muddy marine and sandy environments. The authors conclude that simple generalisations do not explain satisfactorily the predominance of deposit feeders in muds and filter feeders in sands and that we should look to more complex explanations invoking the near flow bed regime. The third deals with physical disturbance of marine benthic communities by natural processes and human agencies and presents a pithy, quantitative summary of a highly topical area especially in relation to marine fishery practice.

A polar topic is almost obligatory in any modern marine synthesis and the presentation here reviews recent zoobenthos research in Antarctic waters. The focus is wide with few species or ideas being treated in any depth but the bibliography is most useful. An impression gained from many of the published works on Antarctic research is that the future needs to be better sponsored than the present but a disinterested observer may ask where the considerable sums of international money currently allocated actually being spent.

Marine carrion and scavengers, and fisheries operations are seriously included in this, are described in a readable review. Largely non-quantitative but embracing a broad survey of most of the representative animal species from flatworms to birds and also inlcuding small and large-scale effects. I have already found this chapter particularly valuable for teaching.

The final article explores the selective accumulation of vanadium and tunichromes in the evolutionarily primitive invertebrates, the ascidians. As filter feeders they accumulate above environmentally available levels; for example, vanadium is found in clusters particularly in branchial epithelial tissue. New and fascinating to me, this is fundamental research; an understanding of the biochemical/physiological mechanism behind these phenomena may be one of the next major advances in either environmental or physiological biology.

T. E. Andrew is a lecturer in environmental sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine.

Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, Volume 32

Editor - A. D. Ansell, R .N. Gibson and M. Barnes
ISBN - 1 85728 236 1
Publisher - UCL Press
Price - £80.00
Pages - 617

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