Dense coral-sponge communities on the upper continental slope at 570-950 m off George V Land, East Antarctica have been identified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems. The challenge is now to understand their probable distribution on other parts of the Antarctic margin. We propose three main factors governing their distribution on the George V margin: 1) their depth in relation to iceberg scouring, 2) the flow of organic-rich bottom waters, and 3) their location at the head of shelf cutting canyons. Icebergs scour to 500 m in this region and the lack of such disturbance is a probable factor allowing the growth of rich benthic ecosystems. In addition, the richest communities are found in the heads of canyons which receive descending plumes of Antarctic Bottom Water formed on the George V shelf, which could entrain abundant food for the benthos. The canyons harbouring rich benthos are also those that cut the shelf break. Such canyons are known sites of high productivity in other areas due to strong current flow and increased mixing with shelf waters, and the abrupt, complex topography. These proposed mechanisms provide a framework for the identification of areas where there is a higher likelihood of encountering these Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.

Physical controls on deep water coral communities on the George V Land slope, East Antarctica

De Santis L
2010

Abstract

Dense coral-sponge communities on the upper continental slope at 570-950 m off George V Land, East Antarctica have been identified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems. The challenge is now to understand their probable distribution on other parts of the Antarctic margin. We propose three main factors governing their distribution on the George V margin: 1) their depth in relation to iceberg scouring, 2) the flow of organic-rich bottom waters, and 3) their location at the head of shelf cutting canyons. Icebergs scour to 500 m in this region and the lack of such disturbance is a probable factor allowing the growth of rich benthic ecosystems. In addition, the richest communities are found in the heads of canyons which receive descending plumes of Antarctic Bottom Water formed on the George V shelf, which could entrain abundant food for the benthos. The canyons harbouring rich benthos are also those that cut the shelf break. Such canyons are known sites of high productivity in other areas due to strong current flow and increased mixing with shelf waters, and the abrupt, complex topography. These proposed mechanisms provide a framework for the identification of areas where there is a higher likelihood of encountering these Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.14083/4461
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