MEPS 501:67-88 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10677

Megafaunal distribution and biodiversity in a heterogeneous landscape: the iceberg-scoured Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic

Katleen Robert1,*, Daniel O. B. Jones2, Veerle A. I. Huvenne

1School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
2National Oceanography Centre, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Species distributions are influenced by spatial structure in environmental factors, but the scales at which these dependencies occur and the effect of habitat patch diversity, connectivity and spatial arrangement have rarely been investigated in deep-sea settings. In this study, spatially limited photographic transects collected from Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic, were combined with sidescan and multibeam sonar maps to model spatial patterns in species distribution and biodiversity. Sediment interpretation maps were created and canonical ordination techniques were used to examine relationships between fine-scale sediment characteristics extracted from the digital stills as well as landscape metrics describing the patch mosaic structure of the surrounding areas. Fine-scale sediment characteristics explained 45.1 and 63.8% of the variation in species composition and biodiversity, respectively. This survey effectively captured variation in species distribution resulting from iceberg ploughmarks, occurring at a scale of <50 m—which would normally go undetected by traditional ship-based studies. Our study suggests that fine-scale environmental information is required to capture the spatial heterogeneity of complex seafloor areas in sufficient detail to model species distributions and biodiversity.


KEY WORDS: Landscape ecology · Deep sea · Megabenthic invertebrates · Spatial heterogeneity · Biodiversity


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Cite this article as: Robert K, Jones DOB, Huvenne VAI (2014) Megafaunal distribution and biodiversity in a heterogeneous landscape: the iceberg-scoured Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 501:67-88. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10677

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