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Geomorphological, trophic and human influences on the bamboo coral Isidella elongata assemblages in the deep Mediterranean: To what extent does Isidella form habitat for fish and invertebrates?

Cartes, J.E.; Lo Iacono, C.; Mamouridis, V.; López-Pérez, C.; Rodríguez, P.. 2013 Geomorphological, trophic and human influences on the bamboo coral Isidella elongata assemblages in the deep Mediterranean: To what extent does Isidella form habitat for fish and invertebrates? Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 76. 52-65. 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.01.006

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Abstract/Summary

We analyzed what are the best ecological conditions for megafauna associated with the bamboo coral Isidella elongata based on the geomorphological, physical and trophic information taken in 3 stations (St1, St2, St3) off the southern Catalonian coasts at 620 m depth in June 2011. Results were compared with assemblage compositions recorded in past cruises (May 1992, 1994) at the same 3 stations. St1 was in a fishing ground exploited since the 1940s over a relatively wide slope at ca. 22 km from the nearest canyon head; St2 and St3 were on a narrower slope closer to canyon heads and to the Ebro river mouth than St1. I. elongata had formed (to May 1994, at least) a dense coral forest at St2–St3 (to ca. 255 colonies/ha at St3), and some isolated colonies (to ca. 0.9 colonies/ha) were still collected in 2011. Fish and invertebrate communities significantly differed between St1 and St2/St3, with two macrourid fishes (Trachrhynchus trachyrhynchus and Nezumia aequalis) and two decapods (Plesionika martia and Plesionika acanthonotus) more abundant at St2/St3. The following ecological indicators imply better food conditions for megafauna at St2–St3 and for I. elongata itself: (i) greater density of zooplankton (copepods, euphausiids, and others) as potential prey for planktivores (including I. elongata); (ii) greater biomass and mean weight of epifaunal and infaunal deposit feeders; (iii) higher feeding intensity, F, at St3 for benthos feeders (Phycis blennoides, N. aequalis and Aristeus antennatus). Also, at St2–St3 we found higher near-bottom turbidity (indicating particle resuspension: food for suspension feeders) and finer and more reduced (Eh) sediments. The results let us suggest that corals and accompanying fauna preferently found optimal ecological conditions in the same habitat, while habitat-forming capacity by I. elongata seemed weak to generate these conditions. Coral forests may enhance detritus accumulations around them, improving habitat conditions for benthos feeders (e.g. macrourid fish). At St3 our side-scan sonar recorded three types of tracks produced by trawler doors, which match with three identified vessels occasionally operating in the area. After this low fishing activity off the Ebro Delta since the mid-1990s, almost all colonies of I. elongata has been removed. However, this impact has hardly altered fish and invertebrate composition without any significant loss of diversity, pointing also toward a rather low capacity of I. elongata facies in forming habitat for megafauna on muddy bottoms of the Mediterranean slope.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.dsr.2013.01.006
ISSN: 09670637
Date made live: 17 Mar 2014 13:29 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/506271

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