Spatial patterns in the distribution of benthic assemblages across a large depth gradient in the Coral Sea, Australia

Beaman, Robin J., Bridge, Tom C.L., Lüter, Carsten, Reitner, Joachim, and Wörheide, Gert (2016) Spatial patterns in the distribution of benthic assemblages across a large depth gradient in the Coral Sea, Australia. Marine Biodiversity, 46 (4). pp. 795-808.

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The Queensland Plateau in the Coral Sea off north-eastern Australia supports numerous submerged and emergent reefs. Osprey Reef is an emergent reef at the northern tip of the plateau ~1500 m in elevation. Over such a large depth gradient, a wide range of abiotic factors (e.g. light, temperature, substratum etc.) are likely to influence benthic zonation. Despite the importance of understanding the biodiversity of Australia's Coral Sea, there is a lack of biological information on deep-water habitats below diving depths. Here we used a deep-water ROV transect to capture video, still photos and live samples over a depth range spanning 92 to 787 m at North Horn on Osprey Reef. Video analysis, combined with bathymetry data, was used to identify the zones of geomorphology and the benthic assemblages along the depth gradient. There were marked changes in the geomorphology and the substrate along this depth gradient which likely influence the associated benthos. Cluster analysis indicated five benthic assemblage groups, which showed clear zonation patterns and were generally predictable based on the depth and sedimentary environment. These results are the first quantitative observations to such depths and confirm that the waters of the Coral Sea support diverse benthic assemblages, ranging from shallow-water coral reefs to mesophotic coral ecosystems, to deep-water azooxanthellate corals and sponge gardens. The knowledge provided by our study can inform management plans for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve that incorporate the deeper reef habitats and help to minimise future damage to these marine ecosystems.

Item ID: 42160
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1867-1624
Keywords: Osprey Reef, benthic, zonation, geomorphology, mesophotic, coldwater coral, sponges
Funders: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Projects and Grants: DFG Wo896/7, DFG Lu839/3
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2015 01:59
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 30%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3705 Geology > 370504 Marine geoscience @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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