Habitat heterogeneity enhances megafaunal biodiversity at bathymetric elevations in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone

Uhlenkott, Katja; Simon-Lledó, Erik ORCID:; Vink, Annemiek; Martínez Arbizu, Pedro. 2023 Habitat heterogeneity enhances megafaunal biodiversity at bathymetric elevations in the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone. Marine Biodiversity, 53 (4).

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The Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ) in the northeast Pacific is a heterogeneous deep-sea environment, featuring abyssal plains as well as multiple seamounts and abyssal hills (bathymetric elevations) that harbour a highly diverse megabenthic fauna. Based on the analysis of seafloor photographic transects that were taken from elevated areas downslope into the abyssal plains in the eastern CCZ, a similar distribution of habitats was observed on five different bathymetric elevations including abyssal hills as well as the foothills of two seamounts. Rock outcrops occur at the summits, surrounded by an area with varying coverage and size of polymetallic nodules, which were divided into two different habitats characterized by large and small nodules, respectively, and followed by nodule-free sediments. Megafauna composition, density and diversity varies across these habitats. While density is the highest in areas with rock outcrops (1.4 individuals per m2), the biodiversity is the highest when regarding all of the habitats combined. Regarded individually, nodule-covered areas are the most diverse, whereas sediment areas without hard substratum, i.e. nodule free sediments, show the lowest biodiversity and the lowest density (0.2 individuals per m2). The multinomial species classification method (CLAM) shows that most of the observed megafauna morphotypes have to be regarded as rare. The large differences between the megafaunal communities at bathymetric elevations and the abyssal plain reported from previous studies might partly be explained by the multiplicity of habitats. This high heterogeneity can lead to a more diversified community at elevations, although most habitats can also be observed in the abyssal plain.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1867-1616
Date made live: 17 Aug 2023 20:28 +0 (UTC)

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