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MEPS prepress abstract   -  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. Harbour, Craig R. Smith, Cornelia Simon-Nutbrown, Marta Cecchetto, Emily Young, Caterina Coral, Andrew K. Sweetman

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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 provides important sources 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 months 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 was 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.