Biodiversity and community structure of the mega-epibenthos in the Magellan area (South America)
Keywords:Mega-epibenthos, Magellan region, community analysis, biodiversity
Epibenthic communites have been investigated at 55 stations in the Magellan region by underwater photogra-phy at water depths between 15 and 430m. Five species assemblages were identified of which the two shallow and the two deep ones in the channel system differed considerably in abundance, number of taxa, diversity and species composition. The dominant systematic group of the shallow assemblages were ascidians. In one of these assemblages decapod crustaceans, in the other mainly sessile suspension feeders e.g. sponges, anthozoans and bryozoans were the characteristic taxa. In the deeper assemblages echinoderms were most abundant. The fifth assemblage, consisting of several offshore stations south of the eastern entrance of the Beagle, was more similar to the shallow stations in the channel system in terms of dominant life forms. Various hypotheses were confirmed or rejected: The benthos at the deeper stations in the channel system was not more homogeneous than at the shallow stations. At both the channel and the offshore stations filter feeders were most dominant whereas at the bottom of the channels deposit feeders were more abundant. Differences between the wide Straits of Magellan and the narrow and steep Beagle Channel were not very distinct. The benthic assemblages inside the channel system did not differ considerably from the assemblage outside the channel system with the exception of the stations close to the continental slope of the Atlantic. Differences due to Pacific or Atlantic influences were not recognisable. The biological patterns could best be explained by the environmental parameters water depth, occurrence of soft sediment and biogenic debris.
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