Community composition and habitat characterization of a rock sponge aggregation (Porifera, Corallistidae) in the Cantabrian Sea

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Ríos, Pilar; Praddo, Elena; Carvalho, Francisca C; Sánchez Francisco; Rodríguez-Basalo, Augusto; Xavier, Joana R; Ibarrola, Teodoro P; Cristobo Javier (2020). Frontiers in Marine Science


Deep-sea sponge-dominated communities are complex habitats considered hotspots of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. They are classified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem and are listed as threatened or declining as a result of anthropogenic activities. Yet, studies into the distribution, community structure and composition of these habitats are scarce, hampering the development of appropriate management measures to ensure their conservation. In this study we describe a diverse benthic community, dominated by a lithistid sponge, found in two geomorphological features of important conservation status —Le Danois Bank and El Corbiro Canyon— of the Cantabrian Sea. Based on the analyses of visual transects using a photogrammetric towed vehicle and samples collected by rock dredge, we characterize the habitat and the associated community in detail. This deep-sea sponge aggregation was found on bedrock. It is dominated by one lithistid sponge, Neoschrammeniella aff. bowerbankii (0.2 ind./m2) and further composed of various sponge species as well as of other benthic invertebrates such as cnidarians, bryozoans and crustaceans. Using a non-invasive methodology (SfM – Structure from Motion) and empirical relationships of individuals size and biomass/volume obtained in laboratory for N. aff. bowerbankii, we were able to estimate a total biomass of 41 kg and volume of 39 l of this species in the surveyed area. This approach allows a fine tune methodology for estimating biomass and volume by image-based-observed area avoiding destructive techniques for this species.



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