History, scientific diving, marine biology, perspectives


Since the end of the Second World War, scuba diving has given new perspectives to marine sciences and, in particular, to marine biology. Before the advent of diving, our knowledge about biology, ecology and behavior of subtidal organisms and the structure and dynamics of hard bottom communities were very superficial. Diving enabled marine scientists to collect biological and geological samples, observe organisms and their behavior directly in situ, study species interactions, and evaluate the marine communities’ structures and dynamics. This method has helped to refine the distribution maps of many species and coastal communities. Moreover, scientific diving became an essential tool to explore environments challenging to reach otherwise, as submarine caves. Thanks to non-destructive methods, scientific diving became essential in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and, more in general, in field studies promoting conservation purposes. Other opportunities regarded the use of underwater devices as benthic chambers, landers, photo- and cinematographic time-lapse systems, or in situ experimental manipulations aiming at testing scientific hypotheses. The direct access to the underwater habitats determined a scientific revolution, by allowing a considerable advancement of the knowledge about the marine world and constituting an approach that no instrument operated by the surface could ever match. Scientific diving assumed an importance comparable to that of the electron microscope in cell biology, and today it is a standard tool in many marine biological research activities. This work aimed to summarize the history of scientific diving and show its role in the development of marine biology and its importance in opening unexpected horizons in science.


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