Response of megabenthic assemblages to different scales of habitat heterogeneity on the Mauritanian slope

Jones, Daniel O.B.; Brewer, Michael E.. 2012 Response of megabenthic assemblages to different scales of habitat heterogeneity on the Mauritanian slope. Deep Sea Research Part I Oceanographic Research Papers, 67. 98-110.

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The topographically complex deep seabed on the Mauritanian slope, from 990 to 1460 m water depth, was imaged with video in an extensive quantitative survey of 17,199 m2 of seafloor using a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). This study investigated the influence of habitat heterogeneity at two scales on the megafaunal assemblages observed by ROV. Changes in megafaunal assemblages on the Mauritanian slope were assessed at a broad scale, within depth zones, and at a finer scale, in response to changes in local geomorphology associated with submarine landslides. Geomorphology was determined by classification of habitat parameters (slope, aspect, bathymetric position, curvature, fractal dimension and ruggedness) derived from an autonomous underwater vehicle-based multibeam bathymetry survey. Habitat parameters were classified by Iterative Self Organizing Clustering into six major geomorphological groups, four of which were assessed in the ROV video survey. A total of 29 megafaunal taxa were observed along the entire survey, with an overall average faunal density of 0.344 ind m−2. Megafaunal assemblage density, species richness and evenness varied significantly across the depth range of the survey in the most common geomorphological zone (sedimentary plains of low slope and complexity). Characteristic species inhabited the shallow areas (asteroid, ophiuroid, anemone, small macrourid), intermediate areas (Benthothuria funabris, black cerianthid, squat lobster) and deeper areas (the holothurians Enypniastes eximia and Elipidia echinata). Megafaunal density, species richness and evenness were not significantly different between geomorphogical groups within one depth zone (1300–1400 m). However, the steepest zone, on the edge of a major headwall feature, had four unique taxa (Parapagurus pilosimanus, a comatulid crinoid, a gorgonian and its associated ophiuroid).

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes
ISSN: 09670637
Additional Keywords: Benthic; Megafauna; Biodiversity; Imaging; Seabed habitat; Spatial scales
Date made live: 10 Sep 2012 14:07 +0 (UTC)

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