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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 657:73-91 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13541

Biodiversity, community structure and ecosystem function on kelp and wood falls in the Norwegian deep sea

Rob P. Harbour1,*, Craig R. Smith2, Cornelia Simon-Nutbrown3, Marta Cecchetto1, Emily Young2, Caterina Coral1,4, Andrew K. Sweetman1

1Deep-Sea Ecology and Biogeochemistry Research Group, The Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
2Department of Oceanography, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822, USA
3The Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science and Technology, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK
4COS and EDS departments, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Utrecht University, 1790 AB, Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fjordic systems in temperate and Arctic regions often feature extensive kelp forests at their shallow coastal margins as well as extensive terrestrial forests. Detrital export from these shallow-water and terrestrial ecosystems is an important source of carbon for deep-sea communities in the form of kelp and wood falls. Benthic landers with experimental substrates (wood blocks and kelp parcels) were deployed for 10 mo at a depth of 530 m in a deep Norwegian fjord to investigate and compare macro- and megabenthic community structure, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning on kelp and wood falls. Results revealed that while wood and kelp falls can support a similar number of species and abundance of fauna, they support significantly different faunal communities. Biomass and secondary production on both wood and kelp substrates were significantly greater than in the control samples. Secondary production estimates were similar or higher than those reported from soft-sediment ecosystems at shallower European marine sites. Biological trait analysis showed that macrofaunal assemblages were distinct between the kelp and wood, providing evidence for differences in ecosystem function between the substrates. This case study from a deep-sea fjord in Norway provides clear evidence that while wood and kelp organic falls can support similar abundances of fauna, the associated benthic biodiversity, community structure and ecosystem functioning can be dramatically different between these substrates. The work presented here aims to provide information that is useful in assessing the extent of anthropogenic impacts on deep fjord ecosystems with respect to informing future conservation and management strategies.


KEY WORDS: Deep sea · Organic falls · Fjord · Kelp · Wood · Benthic lander


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Cite this article as: Harbour RP, Smith CR, Simon-Nutbrown C, Cecchetto M, Young E, Coral C, Sweetman AK (2021) Biodiversity, community structure and ecosystem function on kelp and wood falls in the Norwegian deep sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 657:73-91. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13541

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