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Seasonal fluctuations of deep megabenthos: finding evidence of standing stock accumulation in a flux-rich continental slope
Tecchio, S.; Ramírez Llodra, E.; Aguzzi, J.; Sanchez-Vidal, A.; Flexas, M.; Sardá, F.; Company, J.B. (2013). Seasonal fluctuations of deep megabenthos: finding evidence of standing stock accumulation in a flux-rich continental slope. Prog. Oceanogr. 118: 188-198.
In: Progress in Oceanography. Pergamon: Oxford,New York,. ISSN 0079-6611; e-ISSN 1873-4472, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Tecchio, S.
  • Ramírez Llodra, E.
  • Aguzzi, J.
  • Sanchez-Vidal, A.
  • Flexas, M.
  • Sardá, F., more
  • Company, J.B.

    Throughout the deep oceans, diversity in the benthos peaks at intermediate slope depths. In the western Mediterranean lower slope an accumulation of biomass, but not diversity, at depths of 1200–1350 m has been observed. However, the precise causes of this biomass peak are unknown. We examined the patterns of megafauna benthic biomass in the Catalan sea open slope, from 900 to 1750 m depth, expanding the results in the context of the whole continental margin. Sampling was carried out by combining an Otter-Trawl Maireta System (OTMS) and an Agassiz trawl, during four different seasons in 2008/2009. At the same time, current speed, temperature and salinity were obtained year-round by means of near-bottom deployed sensors (current meters and temperature-conductivity sensors). Total biomass followed an inverted U-shaped pattern, peaking at depths of 1050–1350 m. Range-related ecological forcings between shallower and deeper species may have caused this biomass accumulation at intermediate slope depths. We also report on the seasonal variations of biomass in the studied depth range, identifying a dynamic zone above 1000 m depth where populations of highly mobile species perform year-round migrations throughout the slope, and a more static region below 1000 m (i.e. the twilight zone end) with substantially less inter-annual variations. The arrival of new Western Mediterranean Deep Water from the deep basin to the lower slope in March–May may have driven the accumulation of biomass at 900 and 1050 m depth over the same period. In addition, an adjacent submarine canyon was sampled with the same procedures to characterize its benthic megafauna community. Analyses revealed higher diversity, but not biomass, inside the canyon than in the adjacent open slope, and a significantly different assemblage composition between the two habitats. These results strengthen the concept of submarine canyons as hotspots of biodiversity and underline the importance of their conservation as diversity repositories.

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