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Habitat complexity and bottom fauna composition at different scales on the continental shelf and slope of northern Norway

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Buhl-Mortensen, L. , Buhl-Mortensen, P. , Dolan, M. F. J. , Dannheim, J. , Bellec, V. and Holte, B. (2012): Habitat complexity and bottom fauna composition at different scales on the continental shelf and slope of northern Norway , Hydrobiologia, 685 , pp. 191-219 .
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Abstract:

The MAREANO (Marine AREA database for NOrwegian coast and sea areas) mapping programme includes acquisition of multibeambathymetry and backscatter data together with a comprehensive, integrated biological and geological sampling programme. Equipment used includes underwater video, box corer, grab, epibenthic sled and beam trawl. Habitat maps are produced by combining information on landscapes, landscape elements, sediment types and biological communities. Video observations provide information about the megafauna diversity of large ([1 cm) epifauna and bottom types, whilst bottom samples describe the composition of epifauna, hyperfauna (crustaceans living in the upper part of the sediment and/or swimming just above the substratum) and infauna, and sediment composition. In this study, two biological data sets are used to study fauna response to environmental heterogeneity at two different spatial scales: (1) broad scale, megahabitat (1–10s km), based on information about megafauna taxa observed during video surveys in the Nordland/Troms area, (2) fine scale, mesohabitat (10s m-1 km), based on information about species composition documented with video records and bottom sampling gear from the bank ‘‘Tromsøflaket’’. In general, the highest diversity is found on bottoms with mixed substrates indicating that substratum heterogeneity is very important for the biodiversity at both scales. The number of taxa shows a maximum at depths between 200 and 700 m followed by a gradual decrease down to 2,200 m. At the broad scale, multibeamdata provides a variety of terrain variables that indicate environmental variation (e.g. exposure to currents, interpreted substrates). This analysis identifies six fauna groups associated to specific landscape elements. Diversity of megafauna shows a strong correlation with number of bottom types occurring along video transects. It is highest at the shelf break and decreased with depth on the slope in parallel with a decrease in habitat heterogeneity and temperature. At a fine scale, six biotopes are identified based on megafauna composition with habitat characteristics ranging from homogenous muddy bottom, biotope 1, to the most heterogeneous bottom with[20% rocks and several bottom types present in biotope 6. The macrofauna sampled is used for description of the whole benthic community, including diversity, biomass and production, related to these six biotopes. The variation in percentage cover of substrate types and in particular the cover of hard substrates demonstrate to be a good proxy for the benthic community composition (mega and macrofauna) and its diversity.

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