Exploring Benthic Biodiversity Patterns and Hot Spots on European Margin Slopes

Danovaro, R.; Canals, M.; Gambi, C.; Heussner, S.; Lampadariou, N.; Vanreusel, A.

Oceanography 22(1): 16-25


ISSN/ISBN: 1042-8275
DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2009.02
Accession: 068510003

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There is increasing evidence that continental slope ecosystems represent one of the major repositories of benthic marine biodiversity. The enhanced levels of biodiversity along slopes are hypothesized to be a source of biodiversity for continental shelves and deeper basins. Continental margins are increasingly altered by human activities, but the consequences of these anthropogenic impacts on benthic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are almost completely unknown. Thus, there is an urgent need to gather sufficient information to enable us to understand patterns and drivers of deep-sea biodiversity along continental margins. Although the local diversity of some deep open slope ecosystems is moderately well documented, very little is known about the biodiversity of these systems at greater spatial scales. Topographic setting, hydrodynamic forcing, and the biogeochemical characteristics of the deep-sea floor may play key roles in promoting and sustaining high biodiversity along the open slopes of continental margins. Hermes provided the opportunity to acquire a significant volume of information on the biodiversity, trophic conditions, and topographic characteristics of open slopes across European margins, increasing our knowledge of the latitudinal, longitudinal, and bathymetric patterns of benthic biodiversity, and extending our comprehension of the mechanisms driving deep-sea biodiversity and its potential loss. Improved knowledge of these processes is needed to inform policy decisions for promoting sustainable management of open slopes and deep-sea ecosystems along continental margins.