126 research outputs found

    Partly standing internal tides in a dendritic submarine canyon observed by an ocean glider

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    An autonomous ocean glider is used to make the first direct measurements of internal tides within Whittard Canyon, a large, dendritic submarine canyon system that incises the Celtic Sea continental slope and a site of high benthic biodiversity. This is the first time a glider has been used for targeted observations of internal tides in a submarine canyon. Vertical isopycnal displacement observations at different stations fit a one-dimensional model of partly standing semidiurnal internal tides – comprised of a major, incident wave propagating up the canyon limbs and a minor wave reflected back down-canyon by steep, supercritical bathymetry near the canyon heads. The up-canyon internal tide energy flux in the primary study limb decreases from 9.2 to 2.0 kW m−1 over 28 km (a dissipation rate of View the MathML source), comparable to elevated energy fluxes and internal tide driven mixing measured in other canyon systems. Within Whittard Canyon, enhanced mixing is inferred from collapsed temperature-salinity curves and weakened dissolved oxygen concentration gradients near the canyon heads. It has previously been hypothesised that internal tides impact benthic fauna through elevated near-bottom current velocities and particle resuspension. In support of this, we infer order 20 cm s−1 near-bottom current velocities in the canyon and observe high concentrations of suspended particulate matter. The glider observations are also used to estimate a 1 °C temperature range and 12 μmol kg−1 dissolved oxygen concentration range, experienced twice a day by organisms on the canyon walls, due to the presence of internal tides. This study highlights how a well-designed glider mission, incorporating a series of tide-resolving stations at key locations, can be used to understand internal tide dynamics in a region of complex topography, a sampling strategy that is applicable to continental shelves and slopes worldwide

    Broadscale landscape mapping provides insight into the Commonwealth of Dominica and surrounding islands offshore environment

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    A lack of data hinders effective marine management strategies for developing island states. This is a particularly acute problem for the Commonwealth of Dominica. Here we use publicly available remote sensing and model data to map their relatively unstudied waters. Two study areas were selected; a smaller area focussing on the nearshore marine environment, and a larger area to capture broader spatial patterns and context. Three broadscale landscape maps were created, using geophysical and oceanographic data to classify the marine environment based on its abiotic characteristics. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed on each area, followed by K-means clustering. The larger area PCA revealed three eigenvalues > 1, and one eigenvalue of 0.980. Therefore, two maps were created for this area, to assess the significance of including the fourth principal component (PC). We demonstrate that including too many PCs could lead to an increase in the confusion index of final output maps. Overall, the marine landscape maps were used to assess the spatial characteristics of the benthic environment and to identify priority areas for future high-resolution study. Through defining and analysing existing conditions and highlighting important natural areas in the Dominican waters, these study results can be incorporated into the Marine Spatial Planning process

    High-Resolution Vertical Habitat Mapping of a Deep-Sea Cliff offshore Greenland

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    Recent advances in deep-sea exploration with underwater vehicles have led to the discovery of vertical environments inhabited by a diverse sessile fauna. However, despite their ecological importance, vertical habitats remain poorly characterized by conventional downward-looking survey techniques. Here we present a high-resolution 3-dimensional habitat map of a vertical cliff hosting a suspension-feeding community at the flank of an underwater glacial trough in the Greenland waters of the Labrador Sea. Using a forward-looking set-up on a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), a high-resolution multibeam echosounder was used to map out the topography of the deep-sea terrain, including, for the first time, the backscatter intensity. Navigational accuracy was improved through a combination of the USBL and the DVL navigation of the ROV. Multi-scale terrain descriptors were derived and assigned to the 3D point cloud of the terrain. Following an unsupervised habitat mapping approach, the application of a K-means clustering revealed four potential habitat types, driven by geomorphology, backscatter and fine-scale features. Using groundtruthing seabed images, the ecological significance of the four habitat clusters was assessed in order to evaluate the benefit of unsupervised habitat mapping for further fine-scale ecological studies of vertical environments. This study demonstrates the importance of a priori knowledge of the terrain around habitats that are rarely explored for ecological investigations. It also emphasizes the importance of remote characterization of habitat distribution for assessing the representativeness of benthic faunal studies often constrained by time-limited sampling activities. This case study further identifies current limitations (e.g., navigation accuracy, irregular terrain acquisition difficulties) that can potentially limit the use of deep-sea terrain models for fine-scale investigations

    Geomorphological evidence of large vertebrates interacting with the seafloor at abyssal depths in a region designated for deep-sea mining

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    Exploration licences for seafloor mineral deposits have been granted across large areas of the world's oceans, with the abyssal Pacific Ocean being the primary target for polymetallic nodules—a potentially valuable source of minerals. These nodule-bearing areas support a large diversity of deep-sea life and although studies have begun to characterize the benthic fauna within the region, the ecological interactions between large bathypelagic vertebrates of the open ocean and the abyssal seafloor remain largely unknown. Here we report seafloor geomorphological alterations observed by an autonomous underwater vehicle that suggest large vertebrates could have interacted with the seafloor to a maximum depth of 4258 m in the recent geological past. Patterns of disturbance on the seafloor are broadly comparable to those recorded in other regions of the world's oceans attributed to beaked whales. These observations have important implications for baseline ecological assessments and the environmental management of potential future mining activities within this region of the Pacific

    Marine litter in submarine canyons: A systematic review and critical synthesis

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    The presence of marine litter is of concern in submarine canyons, although research in this area is still in its infancy. A critical synthesis and literature review selecting studies with primary data of benthic marine litter at depths of over 50 m revealed important gaps in the knowledge, with information on the impact of macroplastics in deep-sea environments still scarce. Less than 1% of medium to large submarine canyons mapped have been studied in any measure for marine litter, with over 91% of the canyon studies located in European waters. Imaging techniques are now the main tools used for sampling, overtaking trawling methods despite the continued growth of the latter for marine litter deep-sea research. Enumeration of litter was diverse with over 75% using abundance for quantification. Despite the existence of litter protocols available for deep-sea environments, over 73% of studies did not use any. There was no standardization in the implementation of established classification protocols, which were either not used in full or were customized in part. Fishing-related categories do not feature as a top-level category in the classification hierarchy in any of the protocols, yet over 50% of publications featured fishing materials as a main category, pointing to a more intuitive activity-based categorization of litter instead of a materials-led approach from the established protocols. Furthermore, interactions between litter and the surrounding environment and biota are very much underreported with little or no consensus between how the data are analyzed and expressed. There were no discernible patterns between litter density, composition and broad geographical location of canyons, with individual topographical characteristics, hydrodynamic regimes and anthropogenic activities being determining factors in how submarine canyons are affected by litter. Overall, there is no apparent framework to allow comparison of studies and due to the different methods of identifying, enumerating, quantifying and classifying marine litter, or lack of data on position and morphological setting within the canyon system. The evidence provided within this study highlights a ‘call to action’ for an urgent need to standardize and unify methodologies with new or established protocols to fully understand the impact of marine litter in submarine canyons

    Enigmatic deep-water mounds on the Orphan Knoll, Labrador Sea

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    Deep-sea mounds can have a variety of origins and may provide hard-substrate features in depths that are normally dominated by mud. Orphan Knoll, a 2 km high bedrock horst off northeast Newfoundland, hosts more than 200 mounds, or mound complexes, of unknown composition, in water depths of 1720–2500 m. Most mounds are 10–600 m high, with average mound height 187 m, and 1–3 km wide. The study objective was to characterize the size, shape, orientation, and composition of the enigmatic Orphan Knoll mounds, in order to determine their age and origin. Archival ship-based side-scan sonar, multibeam sonar, airgun, high-resolution sparker and 3.5 kHz acoustic sub-bottom profiling, and newly acquired ship-based multibeam sonar, video transects by remotely operated vehicle (ROV), rock samples, and near-bottom multibeam sonar data were analyzed. Four mounds were studied during two ROV dives. Archival sidescan sonar data show > 200 mounds. Sparker profiles show that the mound crests are covered by condensed stratified Quaternary sediment and airgun seismic data show faults reaching near the seafloor. New multibeam sonar data show mounds are dominantly conical to elliptical in shape, but without preferred orientation or alignment. Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) transects and near-bottom multibeam showed that three mounds were rounded and symmetrically arranged, while a fourth was more asymmetrical, with steep faces on the southwestern and southeastern flanks, where finely bedded to massive sedimentary bedrock outcropped dipping 15–45°SW. Rock samples from the mounds include Eocene calcareous ooze and mid-Miocene bedded pelagic limestone. Thick ferromanganese crusts were found on many surfaces, obscuring possible outcrops from physical sampling. Polymetallic nodules were found on the slope of one mound. Ice-rafted detritus, including igneous and metamorphic rocks and Paleozoic limestone and dolostone, was common in the sediments immediately surrounding the mounds. Quaternary sub-fossil solitary scleractinian corals accumulated over a span of at least 0.18 Ma at the base of one mound. The presence of uplifted condensed Eocene-Miocene rocks on the mounds and faulting in seismic profiles suggest uplift during reactivation of old rift-related faults during the Neogene, with seabed mass wasting creating residual mounds, which were then draped by Quaternary proglacial muds. Sculpting of hemipelagic Quaternary sediment by bottom currents probably contributed to mound morphology

    The Diversity and Ecological Role of Non-scleractinian Corals (Antipatharia and Alcyonacea) on Scleractinian Cold-Water Coral Mounds

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    Cold-water coral carbonate mounds, created by framework-building scleractinian corals, are also important habitats for non-scleractinian corals, whose ecology and role are understudied in deep-sea environments. This paper describes the diversity, ecology and role of non-scleractinian corals on scleractinian cold-water coral carbonate mounds in the Logachev Mound Province, Rockall Bank, NE Atlantic. In total ten non-scleractinian species were identified, which were mapped out along eight ROV video transects. Eight species were identified as black corals (three belonging to the family Schizopathidae, one each to the Leiopathidae, Cladopathidae, and Antipathidae and two to an unknown family) and two as gorgonians (Isididae and Plexauridae). The most abundant species were Leiopathes sp. and Parantipathes sp. 2. Areas with a high diversity of non-scleractinian corals are interpreted to offer sufficient food, weak inter-species competition and the presence of heterogeneous and hard settlement substrates. A difference in the density and occurrence of small vs. large colonies of Leiopathes sp. was also observed, which is likely related to a difference in the stability of the substrate they choose for settlement. Non-scleractinian corals, especially black corals, are an important habitat for crabs, crinoids, and shrimps in the Logachev Mound Province. The carrier crab Paromola sp. was observed carrying the plexaurid Paramuricea sp. and a black coral species belonging to the genus Parantipathes, a behavior believed to provide the crab with camouflage or potentially a defense mechanism against predators. More information on the ecophysiology of non-scleractinian corals and fine-scale local organic matter supply are needed to understand what drives differences in their spatial distribution and community structure.</p

    Author Correction: Species replacement dominates megabenthos beta diversity in a remote seamount setting

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    The original version of this Article contained errors. Affiliations 1 and 3 were incorrectly given as ‘National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom’ and ‘University of Oxford, Department of Zoology, Oxford, OX2 6GG, United Kingdom’ respectively. In addition, an affiliation was omitted, which is now listed as Affiliation 5. Furthermore, the authors of this manuscript were incorrectly affiliated. Lissette Victorero was incorrectly affiliated with ‘National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom’. Katleen Robert was incorrectly affiliated with ‘National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom’. Laura F. Robinson was incorrectly affiliated with ‘University of Oxford, Department of Zoology, Oxford, OX2 6GG, United Kingdom’. Michelle L. Taylor was incorrectly affiliated with ‘University of Bristol, School of Earth Sciences, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, United Kingdom’. Veerle A.I. Huvenne was incorrectly affiliated with ‘University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom’. The correct affiliations list and affiliated authors are given below. Affiliation 1: National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom Lissette Victorero Katleen Robert Veerle A.I. Huvenne Affiliation 2: University of Southampton, Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom Lissette Victorero Affiliation 3: Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, St. John’s, NL A1C 5R3, Canada Katleen Robert Affiliation 4: University of Bristol, School of Earth Sciences, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, United Kingdom Laura F. Robinson Affiliation 5: University of Essex, School of Biological Sciences, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom Michelle L. Taylor These errors have now been corrected in the PDF and HTML versions of the paper, and in the accompanying Supplementary information file

    The Atlantic Ocean landscape: A basin-wide cluster analysis of the Atlantic near seafloor environment

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    Landscape maps based on multivariate cluster analyses provide an objective and comprehensive view on the (marine) environment. They can hence support decision making regarding sustainable ocean resource handling and protection schemes. Across a large number of scales, input parameters and classification methods, numerous studies categorize the ocean into seascapes, hydro-morphological provinces or clusters. Many of them are regional, however, while only a few are on a basin scale. This study presents an automated cluster analysis of the entire Atlantic seafloor environment, based on eight global datasets and their derivatives: Bathymetry, slope, terrain ruggedness index, topographic position index, sediment thickness, POC flux, salinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, current velocity, and phytoplankton abundance in surface waters along with seasonal variabilities. As a result, we obtained nine seabed areas (SBAs) that portray the Atlantic seafloor. Some SBAs have a clear geological and geomorphological nature, while others are defined by a mixture of terrain and water body characteristics. The majority of the SBAs, especially those covering the deep ocean areas, are coherent and show little seasonal and hydrographic variation, whereas other, nearshore SBAs, are smaller sized and dominated by high seasonal changes. To demonstrate the potential use of the marine landscape map for marine spatial planning purposes, we mapped out local SBA diversity using the patch richness index developed in landscape ecology. It identifies areas of high landscape diversity, and is a practical way of defining potential areas of interest, e.g. for designation as protected areas, or for further research. Clustering probabilities are highest (100%) in the center of SBA patches and decrease towards the edges (< 98%). On the SBA point cloud which was reduced for probabilities <98%, we ran a diversity analysis to identify and highlight regions that have a high number of different SBAs per area, indicating the use of such analyses to automatically find potentially delicate areas. We found that some of the highlights are already within existing EBSAs, but the majority is yet unexplored

    High-Resolution Vertical Habitat Mapping of a Deep-Sea Cliff Offshore Greenland

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    Recent advances in deep-sea exploration with underwater vehicles have led to the discovery of vertical environments inhabited by a diverse sessile fauna. However, despite their ecological importance, vertical habitats remain poorly characterized by conventional downward-looking survey techniques. Here we present a high-resolution 3-dimensional habitat map of a vertical cliff hosting a suspension-feeding community at the flank of an underwater glacial trough in the Greenland waters of the Labrador Sea. Using a forward-looking set-up on a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), a high-resolution multibeam echosounder was used to map out the topography of the deep-sea terrain, including, for the first time, the backscatter intensity. Navigational accuracy was improved through a combination of the USBL and the DVL navigation of the ROV. Multi-scale terrain descriptors were derived and assigned to the 3D point cloud of the terrain. Following an unsupervised habitat mapping approach, the application of a K-means clustering revealed four potential habitat types, driven by geomorphology, backscatter and fine-scale features. Using groundtruthing seabed images, the ecological significance of the four habitat clusters was assessed in order to evaluate the benefit of unsupervised habitat mapping for further fine-scale ecological studies of vertical environments. This study demonstrates the importance of a priori knowledge of the terrain around habitats that are rarely explored for ecological investigations. It also emphasizes the importance of remote characterization of habitat distribution for assessing the representativeness of benthic faunal studies often constrained by time-limited sampling activities. This case study further identifies current limitations (e.g., navigation accuracy, irregular terrain acquisition difficulties) that can potentially limit the use of deep-sea terrain models for fine-scale investigations
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