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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00605

Preliminary observations of the abyssal megafauna of Kiribati

 Erik Simon-Lledó1*, Samuel Thompson2,  Andrew Yool1, Adrian Flynn3, Christina Pomee4, John Parianos5 and  Daniel O. Jones1
  • 1National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
  • 2University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, United Kingdom
  • 3Fathom Pacific Pty Ltd, Australia
  • 4Independent researcher, Tonga
  • 5Independent researcher, Australia

We report on preliminary observations of the abyssal megafauna communities in the exclusive economic zone of Kiribati, a huge abyssal area with few previous studies. These observations also provide useful context for marine minerals exploration within the EEZ and for the neighbouring Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ), where deep-sea mining operations are planned. Seafloor images collected during seabed mining exploration were used to characterise megafaunal communities (fauna > 1 cm) in three abyssal plain areas in the eastern Kiribati EEZ (study area extending from 1-5°N and 173-156°W). Additionally, hydrographic features in each of the survey locations were inferred by reference to near-seabed current flows modelled using open-sourced oceanographic data. The images showed a dominance of foraminiferal organisms. Metazoan communities were high in morphospecies richness but had low density. These general patterns were comparable to abyssal megabenthic communities in the CCZ. There was evidence of spatial variation between the assemblages in Kiribati, but there was a relatively large pool of shared morphospecies across the entire study area. Low metazoan density constrained detailed assessment of spatial variation and diversity at local scales. This finding is instructive of the levels of sampling effort required to determine spatial patterns in low density abyssal communities. The results of this study are preliminary observations that will be useful to guide future biological survey design and marine spatial planning strategies.

Keywords: deep-sea, Biodiversity, Image sampling, Conservation -, EEZ, Pacific Basin

Received: 21 May 2019; Accepted: 11 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Simon-Lledó, Thompson, Yool, Flynn, Pomee, Parianos and Jones. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Erik Simon-Lledó, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, erimon@noc.ac.uk