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Environmental drivers of benthic communities and habitat heterogeneity on an East Antarctic shelf


Post, AL and Lavoie, C and Domack, EW and Leventer, A and Shevenell, A and Fraser, AD, NBP 14-02 Science Team, Environmental drivers of benthic communities and habitat heterogeneity on an East Antarctic shelf, Antarctic Science, 29, (1) pp. 17-32. ISSN 0954-1020 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Antarctic Science Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0954102016000468


This study presents the first analysis of benthic megafauna and habitats from the Sabrina Coast shelf, encompassing a proposed Marine Protected Area. Sea bed imagery indicated an abundant benthic fauna compared to other parts of the Antarctic shelf, dominated by brittle stars, polychaete tubeworms, and a range of other sessile and mobile taxa. The distribution of taxa was related (ρ=0.592, P<0.001) to variations in water depth, latitude, substrate type and phytodetritus. High phytodetritus cover was associated with muddy/sandy sediments and abundant holothurians and amphipods, while harder substrates hosted abundant brachiopods, hard bryozoans, polychaete tubeworms, massive and encrusting sponges, and sea whips. Brittle stars, irregular urchins and anemones were ubiquitous. Variations in substrate largely reflected the distribution of dropstones, creating fine-scale habitat heterogeneity. Several taxa were found only on hard substrates, and their broad regional distribution indicated that the density of dropstones was sufficient for most sessile invertebrates to disperse across the region. The hexactinellid sponge Anoxycalyx joubini and branching hydrocorals exhibited a more restricted distribution, probably related to water depth and limited dispersal capability, respectively. Dropstones were associated with significant increases in taxa diversity, abundance and biological cover, enhancing the overall diversity and biomass of this ecosystem.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:benthic habitats, benthic megafauna, biophysical relationships, dropstones, marine protected area, substrate type
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Geology
Research Field:Marine geoscience
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Effects of climate change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Fraser, AD (Dr Alex Fraser)
ID Code:113868
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:19
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2017-01-24
Last Modified:2018-07-27

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