Long-Term Observations of Epibenthic Fish Zonation in the Deep Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Abstract

A total of 172 bottom trawl/skimmer samples (183 to 3655-m depth) from three deep-sea studies, R/V Alaminos cruises (1964-1973), Northern Gulf of Mexico Continental Slope (NGoMCS) study (1983-1985) and Deep Gulf of Mexico Benthos (DGoMB) program (2000 to 2002), were compiled to examine temporal and large-scale changes in epibenthic fish species composition. Based on percent species shared among samples, faunal groups (≥10% species shared) consistently reoccurred over time on the shelf-break (ca. 200 m), upper-slope (ca. 300 to 500 m) and upper-to-mid slope (ca. 500 to 1500 m) depths. These similar depth groups also merged when the three studies were pooled together, suggesting that there has been no large-scale temporal change in depth zonation on the upper section of the continental margin. Permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) also detected no significant species changes on the limited sites and areas that have been revisited across the studies (P > 0.05). Based on the ordination of the species shared among samples, species replacement was a continuum along a depth or macrobenthos biomass gradient. Despite the well-known, close, negative relationship between water depth and macrofaunal biomass, the fish species changed more rapidly at depth shallower than 1,000 m, but the rate of change was surprisingly slow at the highest macrofaunal biomass ( > 100 mg C m -2 ), suggesting that the composition of epibenthic fishes was not altered in response to the extremely high macrofaunal biomass in the upper Mississippi and De Soto Submarine Canyons. An alternative is that the pattern of fish species turnover is related to the decline in macrofaunal biomass, the presumptive prey of the fish, along the depth gradient. © 2012 Wei et al.

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Wei, C. L., Rowe, G. T., Haedrich, R. L., & Boland, G. S. (2012). Long-Term Observations of Epibenthic Fish Zonation in the Deep Northern Gulf of Mexico. PLoS ONE, 7(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046707

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