Are seamounts refuge areas for fauna from polymetallic nodule fields?

Cuvelier, Daphne; Ribeiro, Pedro A.; Ramalho, Sofia P.; Kersken, Daniel; Martinez Arbizu, Pedro; Colaço, Ana

Seamounts are abundant and prominent features on the deep-sea floor and intersperse with the nodule fields of the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ). There is a particular interest in characterising the fauna inhabiting seamounts in the CCZ because they are the only other ecosystem in the region to provide hard substrata besides the abundant nodules on the soft-sediment abyssal plains. It has been hypothesised that seamounts could provide refuge for organisms during deep-sea mining actions or that they could play a role in the (re-)colonisation of the disturbed nodule fields. This hypothesis is tested by analysing video transects in both ecosystems, assessing megafauna composition and abundance.

Nine video transects (ROV dives) from two different license areas and one Area of Particular Environmental Interest in the eastern CCZ were analysed. Four of these transects were carried out as exploratory dives on four different seamounts in order to gain first insights into megafauna composition. The five other dives were carried out in the neighbouring nodule fields in the same areas. Variation in community composition observed among and along the video transects was high, with little morphospecies overlap along intra-ecosystem transects. Despite the observation of considerable faunal variations within each ecosystem, differences between seamounts and nodule fields prevailed, showing significantly different species associations characterising them, thus calling into question their use as a possible refuge area.

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Cuvelier, Daphne / Ribeiro, Pedro A. / Ramalho, Sofia P. / et al: Are seamounts refuge areas for fauna from polymetallic nodule fields?. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Daphne Cuvelier et al.

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