Unexpected high abyssal ophiuroid diversity in polymetallic nodule fields of the Northeast Pacific Ocean, and implications for conservation.

Christodoulou, Magdalini, O'Hara, Timothy, Hugall, Andrew, Khodami, Sahar, Rodrigues, Clara F., Hilario, Ana, Vink, Annemiek and Martinez Arbizu, Pedro (2020) Unexpected high abyssal ophiuroid diversity in polymetallic nodule fields of the Northeast Pacific Ocean, and implications for conservation. Open Access Biogeosciences (BG), 17 (7). pp. 1845-1876. DOI 10.5194/bg-17-1845-2020.

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The largest and commercially appealing mineral deposits can be found in the abyssal seafloor of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a polymetallic nodule province, in the NE Pacific Ocean, where experimental mining is due to take place. In anticipation of deep-sea mining impacts, it has become essential to rapidly and accurately assess biodiversity. For this reason, ophiuroid material collected during seven scientific cruises from five exploration license areas within CCZ, one area protected from mining (APEI3, Area of Particular Environmental Interest) in the periphery of CCZ and the DIS-turbance and re-COLonisation (DISCOL) Experimental Area (DEA), in the SE Pacific Ocean, was examined. Specimens were genetically analysed using a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI). Maximum Likelihood and Neighbour Joining trees were constructed, while four tree-based and distance-based methods of species delineation (ABGD, BINs, GMYC, mPTP) were employed to propose Secondary Species Hypotheses (SSHs) within the ophiuroids collected. The species delimitations analyses concordant results revealed the presence of 43 deep-sea brittle stars SSHs, revealing an unexpectedly high diversity and showing that the most conspicuous invertebrates in abyssal plains have been so far considerably under-estimated. The number of SSHs found in each area varied from 5 (IFREMER area) to 24 (BGR area), while 13 SSHs were represented by singletons. None of the SSHs was found to be present in all 7 areas, while the majority of species (44.2 %) had a single-area presence (19 SSHs). The most common species were Ophioleucidae sp. (Species 29), Amphioplus daleus (Species 2) and Ophiosphalma glabrum (Species 3), present in all areas except APEI3. The biodiversity patterns could be mainly attributed to POC fluxes that could explain the highest species numbers found in BGR (German contractor area) and UKSRL (UK contractor area) areas. The five exploration contract areas belong to a mesotrophic province, while in contrary the APEI3 is located in an oligotrophic province which could explain the lowest diversity as well as very low similarity with the other six study areas. Based on these results the representativeness and the appropriateness of APEI3 to meet its purpose of preserving the biodiversity of the CCZ fauna are questioned. Finally, this study provides the foundation for biogeographic and functional analyses that will provide insight into the drivers of species diversity and its role in ecosystem function.

Document Type: Article
Funder compliance: BMBF:03F0707E
Keywords: Polymetallic nodule fields, Northeast Pacific Ocean
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
Publisher: Copernicus Publications (EGU)
Related URLs:
Projects: JPIO-MiningImpact
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2020 12:08
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2023 09:39
URI: https://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/49278

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