Macro- and megabenthic assemblages in the bathyal and abyssal Weddell Sea (Southern Ocean)
The assemblages inhabiting the continental shelf around Antarctica are known to be very patchy, in large part due to deep iceberg impacts. The present study shows that richness and abundance of much deeper benthos, at slope and abyssal depths, also vary greatly in the Southern and South Atlantic oceans. On the ANDEEP III expedition, we deployed 16 Agassiz trawls to sample the zoobenthos at depths from 1055 to 4930m across the northern Weddell Sea and two South Atlantic basins. A total of 5933 specimens, belonging to 44 higher taxonomic groups, were collected. Overall the most frequent taxa were Ophiuroidea, Bivalvia, Polychaeta and Asteroidea, and the most abundant taxa were Malacostraca, Polychaeta and Bivalvia. Species richness per station varied from 6 to 148. The taxonomic composition of assemblages, based on relative taxon richness, varied considerably between sites but showed no relation to depth. The former three most abundant taxa accounted for 10-30% each of all taxa present. Standardised abundances based on trawl catches varied between I and 252 individuals per 1000 m2. Abundance significantly decreased with increasing depth, and assemblages showed high patchiness in their distribution. Cluster analysis based on relative abundance showed changes of community structure that were not linked to depth, area, sediment grain size or temperature. Generally abundances of zoobenthos in the abyssal Weddell Sea are lower than shelf abundances by several orders of magnitude.
Authors: Linse, Katrin ORCID record for Katrin Linse, Brandt, Angelika, Bohn, Jens M., Danis, Bruno, De Broyer, Claude, Ebbe, Brigitte, Heterier, Vincent, Janussen, Dorte, López-González, Pablo J., Schüller, Myriam, Schwabe, Enrico, Thomson, Michael R.A.