Functional group diversity is key to Southern Ocean benthic carbon pathways
High latitude benthos are globally important in terms of accumulation and storage of ocean carbon, and the feedback this is likely to have on regional warming. Understanding this ecosystem service is important but difficult because of complex taxonomic diversity, history and geography of benthic biomass. Using South Georgia as a model location (where the history and geography of benthic biology is relatively well studied) we investigated whether the composition of functional groups were critical to benthic accumulation, immobilization and burial pathway to sequestration–and also aid their study through simplification of identification. We reclassified , ) morphotype and carbon mass data to 13 functional groups, for each sample of 32 sites around the South Georgia continental shelf. We investigated the influence on carbon accumulation, immobilization and sequestration estimate by multiple factors including the compositions of functional groups. Functional groups showed high diversity within and between sites, and within and between habitat types. Carbon storage was not linked to a functional group in particular but accumulation and immobilization increased with the number of functional groups present and the presence of hard substrata. Functional groups were also important to carbon burial rate, which increased with the presence of mixed (hard and soft substrata). Functional groups showed high surrogacy for taxonomic composition and were useful for examining contrasting habitat categorization. Functional groups not only aid marine carbon storage investigation by reducing time and the need for team size and speciality, but also important to benthic carbon pathways per se. There is a distinct geography to seabed carbon storage; seabed boulder-fields are hotspots of carbon accumulation and immobilization, whilst the interface between such boulder-fields and sediments are key places for burial and sequestration.
Authors: Barnes, David K.A. ORCID record for David K.A. Barnes, Sands, Chester J. ORCID record for Chester J. Sands