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Changes in deep-water epibenthic megafaunal assemblages in relation to seabed slope on the Nigerian margin

Jones, Daniel O.B.; Mrabure, Charles O.; Gates, Andrew R.. 2013 Changes in deep-water epibenthic megafaunal assemblages in relation to seabed slope on the Nigerian margin. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 78. 49-57. 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.04.005

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Abstract/Summary

Local-scale habitat heterogeneity associated with changes in slope is a ubiquitous feature of bathyal continental margins. The response of deep-sea species to high habitat heterogeneity is poorly known and slope can be used as a proxy for many important ecological variables, such as current flow, sedimentation and substratum type. This study determines how slope angle effects megafaunal species density and diversity at the Usan field, offshore Nigeria, between 740 and 760 m depth. This deep-water area is increasingly exploited for hydrocarbons, yet lacking in baseline biological information. Replicated remotely operated vehicle video transect surveys were carried out using industry infrastructure (through the SERPENT Project) at a representative range of slopes (1°, 3°, 11° and 29°). Twenty-four species of benthic megafaunal invertebrate were found, numerically dominated by the echinoid Phormosoma placenta, and nine species of fish were observed. Megafaunal invertebrate deposit feeder density decreased significantly with increasing slope (density range 0.503–0.081 individuals m−2). Densities of megafaunal suspension feeders were very low except at the highest slope site (mean density 0.17 m−2). Overall species richness was greater on steeper slopes, although the richness of deposit feeders was not affected. Reduced labile organic matter in sediments on steeper slopes likely reduced deposit feeder densities, but increased current flow at higher slopes allowed both increased richness and density of suspension feeders.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.04.005
ISSN: 09670637
Date made live: 08 Jul 2013 15:46 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/502578

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