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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 614:91-109 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12903

Glass sponge grounds on the Scotian Shelf and their associated biodiversity

Nickolas Hawkes1, Michelle Korabik2, Lindsay Beazley2,*, Hans Tore Rapp1,3, Joana R. Xavier1,4, Ellen Kenchington2

1Department of Biological Sciences and K.G. Jebsen Centre for Deep-Sea Research, University of Bergen, PO Box 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
2Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada
3NORCE, Norwegian Research Centre, NORCE Environment, Nygårdsgaten 112, 5008 Bergen, Norway
4CIIMAR - Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto, Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixões, Av. General Norton de Matos s/n, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Emerald Basin on the Scotian Shelf off Nova Scotia, Canada, is home to a globally unique population of the glass sponge Vazella pourtalesi. Through the analysis of both in situ photographs and trawl catch data from annual multispecies bottom-trawl surveys, we examined community composition, species density, and abundance of epibenthos and fish associated with V. pourtalesi compared to locations without this sponge. Using generalized linear models and analysis of similarities, the importance of V. pourtalesi in enhancing species density and abundance of the associated epibenthic community was assessed against that of the hard substrate on which it settles. Our results indicated that the megafaunal assemblage associated with V. pourtalesi was significantly different in composition and higher in species density and abundance compared to locations without V. pourtalesi. Analysis of similarity of trawl catch data indicated that fish communities associated with the sponge grounds are significantly different from those without V. pourtalesi, although no species were found exclusively on the sponge grounds. Our study provides further evidence of the role played by sponge grounds in shaping community structure and biodiversity of associated deep-sea epibenthic and fish communities. The mechanism for biodiversity enhancement within the sponge grounds formed by V. pourtalesi is likely the combined effect of both the sponge itself and its attachment substrate, which together comprise the habitat of the sponge grounds. We also discuss the role of habitat provision between the mixed-species tetractinellid sponges of the Flemish Cap and the monospecific glass sponge grounds of Emerald Basin.


KEY WORDS: Vazella pourtalesi · Hexactinellida · Epibenthic megafauna · Diversity


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Cite this article as: Hawkes N, Korabik M, Beazley L, Rapp HT, Xavier JR, Kenchington E (2019) Glass sponge grounds on the Scotian Shelf and their associated biodiversity. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 614:91-109. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12903

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