Patterns in deep-sea macrobenthos at the continental margin: standing crop, diversity and faunal change on the continental slope off Scotland

John D Gage, Peter Lamont, K Kroeger, G L J Paterson, J L G Vecino

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Depth-related patterns of macrobenthic community structure and composition have been studied from box-core samples from the Scottish continental slope where deep-sea trawling and oil exploration are becoming increasingly important. There is a strong pattern of declining biomass and faunal abundance with increasing depth, but results also indicate reduced biomass and numbers of macrobenthos in the shallowest samples from just below the shelf edge where there are coarse sediments and a regime of strong bottom currents. There is also reduced species diversity at the shallowest stations. probably caused by hydrodynamic disturbance, but no clear mid-slope peak in species diversity as described from the northwest Atlantic. Taxonomic composition of the macrobenthic community shows most change between about 1000 and 1200 m, expressed as a major dichotomy in multivariate analysis by cluster analysis and ordination. It also shows up as a step-like increase in the rate of accumulation of new macrofaunal species. This corresponds to a change in hydrodynamic regime, from a seabed rich in suspension- and interface-feeding epifauna. to one where biogenic traces from large, burrowing deposit feeders are well developed. and visible epifauna rare in seabed photographs. It also corresponds to the depth zone where earlier study of megafaunal echinoderms in trawl and epibenthic sled samples also shows a clear peak in across-slope rate of change in faunal composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-271
Number of pages11
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2000



  • Marine & Freshwater Biology

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