Inter-Research > MEPS > v708 > p21-43  
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 708:21-43 (2023)  -  DOI:

Assessing sea floor functional biodiversity and vulnerability

Olivier Beauchard1,*, Murray S. A. Thompson2, Kari E. Ellingsen3, Gerjan Piet4, Pascal Laffargue5, Karline Soetaert1

1Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Utrecht University, Department of Estuarine and Delta Systems, Yerseke 4401 NT, The Netherlands
2Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
3Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), 9296 Tromsø, Norway
4Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University & Research, IJmuiden 1970 AB, The Netherlands
5IFREMER, Laboratoire Ecologie et Modèles pour l’Halieutique, 44311 Nantes, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The marine benthos has been largely studied through the use of response traits that characterise species vulnerability to disturbance. More limited has been the specific use of effect traits that represent other species descriptors and that express ecosystem functions. On the sea floor, the benthos is a key ecosystem-engineering component for which functions can be relevantly derived from effect traits. This study provides a typology of sea floor functions based on an extensive data compilation of effect traits. We classified 812 benthic invertebrate species from the northeast Atlantic by 15 effect traits expressing substratum alteration and habitat creation. Cluster analysis identified 15 species groups that represented various epi- or endobenthic functions. Beyond function-habitat specificity, we show that soft sediment species exhibited broader functional niches in the trait space that increase multi-functionality, and were endowed with rare combinations of traits that expanded the functional extent of the species assemblage. As a consequence, soft sediments can host a higher functional diversity than hard substrata because a wider range of above- and below-substratum activities are possible in soft bottoms. Based on response traits documented for the same species and used to express vulnerability to natural or human-induced disturbance, we then show that vulnerability within sea floor functions can be considerably variable. This can be a consequence of the independence between the evolutionary nature of response traits and the contingent engineering abilities of benthic species through effect traits. The paper provides theoretical and utilitarian clarifications on this trait dichotomy.

KEY WORDS: Benthic invertebrate · Effect trait · Ecosystem engineering · Ecosystem function · Functional group · Functional diversity · Vulnerability

Full text in pdf format
Supplementary material
Cite this article as: Beauchard O, Thompson MSA, Ellingsen KE, Piet G, Laffargue P, Soetaert K (2023) Assessing sea floor functional biodiversity and vulnerability. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 708:21-43.

Export citation
Share:    Facebook - - linkedIn

 Previous article Next article