Report | April 11, 2018

Identifying epibenthic habitats on the Seco de los Olivos Seamount: Species assemblages and environmental characteristics

High habitat diversity was observed on the Seco de los Olivos Seamount (SW Mediterranean Sea), a Site of Community Importance belonging to the Spanish marine Natura 2000 Network. Thirteen epibenthic habitats were identified by analysing 55 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) transects from 76 m to 700 m depth and derived data from multibeam bathymetry and high resolution seismic profiles. Habitat identification was based on a combination of assemblages of habitat-forming species and the environmental characteristics supporting their distribution. Depth and slope were identified as the main significant factors structuring epibenthic assemblages. The high diversity and patchiness of habitats found on the Seco de los Olivos Seamount can be explained by the high environmental variability resulting from its wide geomorphologic diversity, where flat summits, steep flanks, rocky outcrops and sedimentary moats are combined. The distribution of benthic habitats at this seamount is likely a combination of suitable ecological conditions, local recruitment, feeding strategies and attachment mechanisms. Knowledge on the occurrence of habitats in areas of natural importance is crucial to species and habitats conservation and to develop proper monitoring and management programs aimed at fulfilling European regulation requirements.

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