Fauna and habitat types driven by turbidity currents in the lobe complex of the Congo deep sea fan

Type Article
Date 2017-08
Language English
Author(s) Sen Arunima1, Dennielou BernardORCID2, Tourolle JulieORCID1, Arnaubec Aurelien3, Rabouille Christophe4, Olu KarineORCID1
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Ctr Bretagne, Lab Environm Profond, Plouzane, France.
2 : IFREMER, Ctr Bretagne, Lab Geodynam & Enregistrement Sedimentaire, Unite Rech Geosci Marines, Plouzane, France.
3 : IFREMER, Ctr Mediterranee, Unite Syst Marines, La Seyne Sur Mer, France.
4 : Univ Paris Saclay, Lab Sci Climat & Environm, Gif Sur Yvette, France.
Source Deep-sea Research Part Ii-topical Studies In Oceanography (0967-0645) (Pergamon-elsevier Science Ltd), 2017-08 , Vol. 142 , P. 167-179
DOI 10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.05.009
WOS© Times Cited 22

This study characterizes the habitats and megafaunal community of the Congo distal lobe complex driven by turbidity currents through the use of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) still imagery transects covering distances in the order of kilometers. In this sedimentary, abyssal area about 5000 m deep and 750 km offshore from western Africa, large quantities of deposited organic material supplied by the Congo River canyon and channel support aggregations of large sized foraminifers (Bathysiphon sp.) and vesicomyid clams (Christineconcha regab, Abyssogena southwardae) often associated with methane cold seeps, as well as opportunistic deep-sea scavengers. Additionally, bacterial mats, assumed to be formed by large sulfur-oxidizing filamentous bacteria (Beggiatoa type), and black patches of presumably reduced sediment were seen which are, together with sulfur-oxidizing symbiont- bearing vesicomyids, indicators of sulfide-rich sediments. Habitat and faunal distribution were analyzed in relation to the microtopography obtained with the ROV multibeam echosounder, at three sites from the entrance of the lobe complex where the channel is still deep, to the main, flatter area of turbidite deposition. Specific characteristics of the system influence animal distributions: both the forams and the vesicomyid clams tended to avoid the channels characterized by high-speed currents, and are therefore preferentially located along channel flanks affected by sliding, and on levees formed by channel overspill. Foram fields are found in flat areas and form large fields, whereas the vesicomyids have a patchy distribution and appear to show a preference for regions of local topographical relief such as slide scars or collapsed blocks of sediments, which likely facilitate sulfide exhumation. The colonization of sulfide rich sediments by vesicomyids is limited, but nonetheless was seen to occur in the main deposition area where they have to cope with very high sedimentation rates (up to 20 cm/yr) and frequent turbidity currents. Other biological adaptations to the local conditions likely determine the presence and survival of animals in the system: large agglutinated forams are known to be adept at quickly colonizing disturbed sediment and capitalizing on abundant but irregular food sources, and vesicomyid clams have a mobile lifestyle that enables them to maintain their population in the ever changing landscape of sulfide-rich sediment outcrops. Turbiditic systems appear to be intermediate between other energy rich habitats sustaining chemosynthesis in the deep sea, being locally less stable in terms of energy supply than cold seeps, limiting the number of cold-seep specialists able to colonize, but constituting a longer lived habitat than food falls. Turbidite fans therefore represent distinct deep sea habitats that contribute to sustaining populations of both chemosynthesis-based and opportunistic taxa in the deep-sea.

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Sen Arunima, Dennielou Bernard, Tourolle Julie, Arnaubec Aurelien, Rabouille Christophe, Olu Karine (2017). Fauna and habitat types driven by turbidity currents in the lobe complex of the Congo deep sea fan. Deep-sea Research Part Ii-topical Studies In Oceanography, 142, 167-179. Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.05.009 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00385/49614/