Spatial heterogeneity of macrofaunal communities in and near a giant pockmark area in the deep Gulf of Guinea

Type Article
Date 2010-03
Language English
Author(s) Menot LenaickORCID1, 2, Galeron Joelle1, Olu Karine1, Caprais Jean-Claude1, Crassous Philippe1, Khripounoff AlexisORCID1, Sibuet Myriam2
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Ctr Brest, Dept DEEP LEP, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
2 : Inst Oceanog, Paris, France.
Source Marine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective (0173-9565) (Wiley-blackwell Publishing, Inc), 2010-03 , Vol. 31 , N. 1 , P. 78-93
DOI 10.1111/j.1439-0485.2009.00340.x
WOS© Times Cited 30
Keyword(s) Cold seep, diversity, Gulf of Guinea, habitat heterogeneity, macrofauna, open slope, siboglinid tubeworms, vesicomyid clams
Abstract The structure and familial-level composition of macrofaunal communities were examined within and at distance from the giant pockmark Regab in the Southern Gulf of Guinea, at 3200 m depth. The two main questions addressed in this study were (i) does habitat partitioning by large symbiont-bearing taxa. influence macrofaunal assemblages and their environment? and (ii) to what extent does the chemosynthesis-based ecosystem influence the structure and the composition of nearby macrobenthic communities? Along two radials, at sites from 250 to 1000 m away from the active centre of the cold seep, the abundance and composition of the macrofauna were typical of a deep-sea community at that depth. Except for a few cores sampled in or near dead vesicomyid fields at the border of the pockmark area, the chemosynthetic ecosystem had no significant influence on macrofaunal communities beyond the edge of the giant pockmark. In seep sediments, the macrofauna had higher densities, reaching over 22,000 ind.m(-2), but lower taxonomic richness than in background sediments. The polychaete assemblages associated with siboglinid tubeworms differed in their composition and vertical distribution from communities associated with vesicomyids or found at the border between vesicomyids and mytilids The siboglinid habitat was dominated by surface-feeders (ampharetids) or small carnivores (dorvilleids, hesionids and syllids) concentrated in the top sediment layer, while the vesicomyid beds were dominated by deep-dwelling, subsurface feeders (capitellids and cossurids). This pattern may be related to bioturbation by the vesicomyids that allows an oxygenation of surface sediments while deepening down and enhancing the anaerobic oxidation of methane. Although alpha diversity of polychaete families is low in seep sediments, the variability of faunal assemblages and potentially high level of speciation in cold-seep environments point to high beta diversity. Comparable numbers of polychaete families coexist in a quarter square meter of seep or non-seep sediments, although the number of ecological niches that were sampled might be higher at seeps. Further integrative and comparative studies of the diversity and functioning of seep and non-seep communities would certainly provide clues to understanding both ecosystems and their interactions.
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