Spatial heterogeneity of benthos on the Carolina continental slope: large (100km)-scale variation

T. Schaff, L. Levin, N. Blair, D. Demaster, R. Pope, S. Boehme

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91 Scopus citations


The northernmost site (Site III, off Cape Hatteras, NC) had macrofaunal abundances (>55 000m-2) higher than any previously recorded from 850m, and significantly higher than those at site II (off Cape Lookout, NC) (21 319 m-2) or Site I (off Charleston, SC) 9438m-2). Trends in macrofaunal abundance did not follow those of sediment TOC (total organic carbon), but agreed well with estimates of total carbon flux. Sediments at Site III are mixed 2-6 times faster than at the other sites. The authors estimated carbon flux to be 0.6, 20 and >70 g C m-1yr-1 at Sites I, II and III, respectively. The flux of metabolizable carbon was greater at Site III. Polychaetes, which comprised 43, 74 and 65% of the fauna at Site I, II and III, respectively, exhibited lower diversity higher dominance, and a completely different species composition at Site III. Scalibregma inflatum and Aricidea quadrilobata comprised 33% of total macrofauna at Site III, but were absent at Sites I and II. The species composition, high dominance, and prevalence of juveniles among polychaetes at Site III suggests a response to organic enrichment. Enrichment of the Site III benthos is attributed to physical oceanographic and geophysical causes, including Gulf Stream-induced upwelling, a confluence of currents focused by bottom topography, and lateral inputs resulting from mass wasting processes. Sites I and II exhibited considerable overlap in microbial counts, polychaete species composition, dominance and diversity patterns. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-160
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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