, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 97-105

Mega-epibenthos at Bouvet Island (South Atlantic): a spatially isolated biodiversity hot spot on a tiny geological spot

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Abstract

Mega-epibenthic diversity was analysed using a seabed photography at four stations off Bouvet Island and one station at the Spiess Seamount in the South Atlantic. Surprisingly, the intermediate-scale diversity within the area of investigation was not lower compared to that on the Patagonian shelf and only moderately lower than that on the Antarctic continental shelf. This result is incompatible with Mac Arthur and Wilson’s Island Biogeography Theory describing species richness as a function of immigration of new species into an area and its extension. The relatively high species number and the very small extension of the Bouvet shelf compared to the much larger continental shelves of the other two areas can be explained by long-range dispersal of marine benthic animals in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and high habitat heterogeneity. The observed uncoupling of intermediate-scale from large-scale background species diversity on the Antarctic shelf raises the question whether in these benthic systems an upper capacity limit for diversity exists.