Experimental trawl surveys were performed in the Gulf of Lions. A multicompartmental approach was used to study the spatial distribution of demersal as- semblages and to estimate their associations with two other components of the ecosystem: the benthic mac- rofauna and substratum type. At the Gulf scale, we found that these components explained 38 and 19% of the total variability of the spatial organization of ground®shes, respectively. Our results showed that ground®sh and benthic macrofauna species were pri- marily distributed along a coast±open sea gradient and secondarily along a longitudinal axis. The longitudinal variability of the spatial organisation of species was maximal in the shelf area, whereas the upper-slope and coastal areas were characterized by strong homogeneity. Although no partitioning could be made based on their spatial distribution, the coastal ground®sh assemblages were split into two groups. In the ®rst group, ground- ®shes were strongly associated with both benthic mac- rofauna and type of substratum; in the second group, they were strongly independent of these two compo- nents. Furthermore, in the Gulf of Lions, the presence of productive zones associated with the RhoÃ ne river plume or with shelf-break upwelling seemed to attract some ground®shes. This study illustrates how useful such a multicompartmental approach can be for both ®sheries management and community ecology.
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