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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 213:111-125 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps213111

Seamount benthic macrofauna off southern Tasmania: community structure and impacts of trawling

J. A. Koslow1,*, K. Gowlett-Holmes1, J. K. Lowry2, T. O¹Hara3, G. C. B. Poore3, A. Williams1

1CSIRO Marine Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Australian Museum, PO Box A285, Sydney South, New South Wales 2000, Australia
3Museum Victoria, 71 Victoria Crescent, Abbotsford, Victoria 3067, Australia

ABSTRACT: The benthic macrofauna of a group of small seamounts south of Tasmania was surveyed with a dredge and camera to assess the impact of trawling for orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus; Trachichthyidae) and the efficacy of a proposed marine reserve. The seamounts were generally 300 to 600 m high and the peaks ranged from 660 to 1700 m depth. The fauna was diverse: 262 species of invertebrates and 37 species of fishes were enumerated, compared with 598 species of invertebrates previously reported from seamounts worldwide. On seamounts that peaked at depths <1400 m and that had not been heavily fished, the invertebrate fauna was dense, diverse and dominated by suspension feeders, including a matrix-forming colonial hard coral (Solenosmilia variabilis) and a variety of hard and soft (gorgonian and antipatharian) corals, hydroids, sponges and suspension-feeding ophiuroids and sea stars. Of the invertebrate species, 24 to 43% were new to science, and between 16 and 33% appeared to be restricted to the seamount environment. Trawl operations effectively removed the reef aggregate from the most heavily fished seamounts. The benthic biomass of samples from unfished seamounts was 106% greater than from heavily fished seamounts and the number of species per sample was 46% greater. Living S. variabilis was not found on seamounts peaking at depths >1400 m. These seamounts were dominated by sea urchins and had lower biomass and fewer species per sample. However, few species were restricted to either the shallowest or deepest depths sampled. The fauna unique to the region¹s seamounts appears to be adequately represented within a recently established ŒMarine Protected Area¹ that encloses 12 seamounts that peak at depths >1150 m.

KEY WORDS: Seamount · Benthos · Impacts of trawling · Community structure

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