The islands of Bermuda are ideally located for the assessment of marine biodiversity because the isolated archipelago is at the interface of tropical and warm temperate zones, which harbor different floras and faunas. Bermuda's small size supports approximately 450 species of seaweeds; this number allows complete assessment of the archipelago's algal diversity over the period of the project. Using DNA sequence data, Bermudan species will be compared with specimens collected in Caribbean and North American habitats. The outcome will be the most comprehensive floristic survey for any island grouping.
The seaweeds that inhabit Bermuda are important as sentinels to changing water temperatures. Many tropical species that might otherwise thrive in Bermuda's waters cannot survive at the water temperatures reached during the winter. However, minor increases in minimum water temperatures around Bermuda may eliminate this obstacle. Warmer annual temperatures might also cause the disappearance of cold-water winter species. This study will result in an exhaustive baseline dataset of Bermuda's seaweeds that will allow detection of potential addition of tropical and loss of coldwater species from the flora. In partnership with local authorities, this project thus provides a critical resource for advance warning of ocean temperature changes near Bermuda. In addition, this project provides research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students and outreach to K-12 teachers and students and the general public through activities organized with the Bermuda Aquarium.