The benthos: the ocean’s last boundary?




ocean boundaries, benthos, benthic-pelagic and pelagic-benthic coupling, Ramon Margalef


Benthic communities depend on receiving much of their food from the water column. While sinking, particles are transformed in a discontinuous process and are temporally retained in transitional physical structures, which act as boundaries and contribute to their further transformation. Motile organisms are well-acquainted with boundaries. The number, width and placement of boundaries are related to the degree of particle degradation or transformation. Progressively deepening within each boundary, particles are degraded according to their residence time in the discontinuity and the activity of the organisms temporarily inhabiting that boundary. Finally, particles reach the seafloor and represent the main food source for benthic organisms; the quality and quantity of this food have a strong impact on the development of benthic communities. However, benthic communities not only play the role of a sink of matter: they act as an active boundary comparable to other oceanic boundaries, in accordance with the boundary concept proposed by the ecologist Ramon Margalef.


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How to Cite

Gili J-M, Vendrell-Simón B, Arntz W, Sabater F, Ros J. The benthos: the ocean’s last boundary?. Sci. mar. [Internet]. 2020Dec.11 [cited 2024Jul.24];84(4):463-75. Available from: