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Deep-sea habitat mapping and MPAs

International efforts are currently being made to establish networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) for the purposes of conservation of marine biodiversity. One of the primary objectives of MPA networks is to achieve representation of all marine biological diversity. Since we do not know the extent of biological diversity nor its distribution and function, we use surrogates to represent biological diversity. At a broad scale, measures of the physical environment are used, however at a fine scale biological assemblages have been shown to provide better representation of known biological diversity. While there are well known descriptions of assemblages for shallow water environments, few such descriptions of deep-sea benthic assemblages have been attempted.

This paper provides descriptions of deep-sea epibenthic megafaunal assemblages based on a broad-scale video and stills image survey of the upper bathyal (200–1000 m) regions of the Rockall Trough and eastern Faroe–Shetland Channel. Almost two thousand images were analysed from 139 video transects. The areas sampled included canyons, seamounts, ridges and continental slope. A total of thirty-one epibenthic megafaunal assemblages were defined by their characterising species, and their distribution in terms of site, depth, temperature and substratum type.

This paper is the outcome of work funded by the JNCC, BERR and INTERREG IIIB NEW.

Howell KL, Davies JS & Narayanaswamy BE (2010) Identifying deep-sea megafaunal epibenthic assemblages for use in habitat mapping and marine protected area network design. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, pg 33-68. doi:10.1017/S0025315409991299

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