Delavenne J., Keszler L., Castelin M., Lozouet P., Maestrati P. & Samadi S. 2019. Deep-sea benthic communities in the largest oceanic desert are structured by the presence of polymetallic crust. Scientific Reports 9(1): 6977. DOI:10.1038/s41598-019-43325-0
Based on the specimens collected during three deep-sea cruises, and deposited at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris, we analysed the diversity of benthic communities within the EEZ of French Polynesia. The literature and the MNHN database allowed us to inventory 471 species of invertebrates, among which 169 were newly described. We mainly found data for Mollusca, Crustacea, Brachiopoda and Crinoidea. We also found samples from other taxa, which still remain unidentified within the collections of the MNHN. Although this inventory is incomplete, we demonstrate that the deep waters of French Polynesia host unique benthic communities and endemic species. Using diversity and multivariate analyses, we show that the deep-sea benthic communities are structured by depth, habitats, geography and also by the presence of polymetallic crust. Furthermore, by focusing on the molluscs of the central area of French Polynesia, we show that the spectrum of shell size differs among deep-sea habitats. Specifically, shells tend to be smaller on encrusted seamounts than on island slopes. Together with the size range of organisms, low abundance, rarity and endemism designate these habitats as sensitive. These results should thus be taken into account in the evaluation of the expected impact of mining activities on biological communities.
Accessible surveys cited (3) [+]