Distinct Benthic Community Trends Driven by Particle Transport and Deposition in Mid-Atlantic Bight Canyons, NW Atlantic
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) is a well-studied region of the U.S. East coast continental margin, rich in submarine canyons. Baltimore and Norfolk canyons were studied during the multidisciplinary Atlantic Deepwater Canyons project through funding from BOEM, NOAA, and USGS. Sediment and water column properties were assessed in the context of canyon physical dynamics and ecosystem ecology. Sediment samples were collected by NIOZ box corer in 2012 and 2013 along canyon axes and comparative adjacent slopes at standardized depths. Sediments were analyzed for grain size, organic content, stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes, chlorophyll a, and benthic infauna. Water column properties were sampled using CTD transects, and benthic landers and moorings positioned along canyon axes. Significant differences in sediment transport regimes were found for each canyon where observed nepheloid layers corresponded to shifts in infaunal community structure. Significant community shifts were observed in stations at depths > 900m in Baltimore Canyon, coinciding with higher organic matter concentrations at depths below the nepheloid layer. In contrast, adjacent slope communities exhibited a more uniform infaunal assemblage where distinct zonation patterns by depth were observed. Preliminary data for Norfolk Canyon suggest very different sediment deposition rates in the canyon and also show clear differences between canyon and slope benthic communities. Geological processes and canyon topography coupled with organic inputs and disturbance events are clear factors in determining benthic infaunal diversity and standing stock dynamics in and around these canyons.