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Deep-sea diversity patterns are shaped by energy availability
Woolley, S.N.C.; Tittensor, D.P.; Dunstan, P.K.; Guillera-Arroita, G.; Lahoz-Monfort, J.J.; Wintle, B.A.; Worm, B.; O'Hara, T.D. (2016). Deep-sea diversity patterns are shaped by energy availability. Nature (Lond.) 533(7603 ): 393–396.
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836; e-ISSN 1476-4687, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Woolley, S.N.C.
  • Tittensor, D.P.
  • Dunstan, P.K.
  • Guillera-Arroita, G.
  • Lahoz-Monfort, J.J.
  • Wintle, B.A.
  • Worm, B.
  • O'Hara, T.D.

    The deep ocean is the largest and least-explored ecosystem on Earth, and a uniquely energy-poor environment. The distribution, drivers and origins of deep-sea biodiversity remain unknown at global scales(1-3). Here we analyse a database of more than 165,000 distribution records of Ophiuroidea (brittle stars), a dominant component of sea-floor fauna, and find patterns of biodiversity unlike known terrestrial or coastal marine realms. Both patterns and environmental predictors of deep-sea (2,000-6,500m) species richness fundamentally differ from those found in coastal (0-20 m), continental shelf (20-200 m), and upper-slope (200-2,000 m) waters. Continental shelf to upper-slope richness consistently peaks in tropical Indo-west Pacific and Caribbean (0-30 degrees) latitudes, and is well explained by variations in water temperature. In contrast, deep-sea species show maximum richness at higher latitudes (30-50 degrees), concentrated in areas of high carbon export flux and regions close to continental margins. We reconcile this structuring of oceanic biodiversity using a species-energy framework, with kinetic energy predicting shallow-water richness, while chemical energy (export productivity) and proximity to slope habitats drive deep-sea diversity. Our findings provide a global baseline for conservation efforts across the sea floor, and demonstrate that deep-sea ecosystems show a biodiversity pattern consistent with ecological theory, despite being different from other planetary-scale habitats.

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