Abundance and size distribution dynamics of abyssal epibenthic megafauna in the northeast Pacific

Ruhl, Henry A.. 2007 Abundance and size distribution dynamics of abyssal epibenthic megafauna in the northeast Pacific. Ecology, 88 (5). 1250-1262.

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The importance of interannual variation in deep-sea abundances is now becoming recognized. There is, however, relatively little known about what processes dominate the observed fluctuations. The abundance and size distribution of the megabenthos have been examined here using a towed camera system at a deep-sea station in the northeast Pacific (Station M) from 1989 to 2004. This 16-year study included 52 roughly seasonal transects averaging 1.2 km in length with over 35 600 photographic frames analyzed. Mobile epibenthic megafauna at 4100 m depth have exhibited interannual scale changes in abundance from one to three orders of magnitude. Increases in abundance have now been significantly linked to decreases in mean body size, suggesting that accruals in abundance probably result from the recruitment of young individuals. Examinations of size-frequency histograms indicate several possible recruitment events. Shifts in size-frequency distributions were also used to make basic estimations of individual growth rates from 1 to 6 mm/month, depending on the taxon. Regional intensification in reproduction followed by recruitment within the study area could explain the majority of observed accruals in abundance. Although some adult migration is certainly probable in accounting for local variation in abundances, the slow movements of benthic life stages restrict regional migrations for most taxa. Negative competitive interactions and survivorship may explain the precipitous declines of some taxa. This and other studies have shown that abundances from protozoans to large benthic invertebrates and fishes all have undergone significant fluctuations in abundance at Station M over periods of weeks to years.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0012-9658
Date made live: 17 Dec 2009 +0 (UTC)

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