Marine Biology

, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 637-647

Relationship between depth, sediment, latitude, and the structure of benthic infaunal assemblages on the mainland shelf of southern California

  • Mary BergenAffiliated withSouthern California Coastal Water Research Project, 7171 Fenwick Lane, Westminster, CA 92683, USA e-mail: anandar@sccwrp.org Tel.: +1-714-3729218; Fax: +1-714-8949699
  • , Stephen B. WeisbergAffiliated withSouthern California Coastal Water Research Project, 7171 Fenwick Lane, Westminster, CA 92683, USA e-mail: anandar@sccwrp.org Tel.: +1-714-3729218; Fax: +1-714-8949699
  • , Robert W. SmithAffiliated withEcoanalysis, P.O. Box 1537, Ojai, CA 93024, USA
  • , Donald B. CadienAffiliated withLos Angeles County Sanitation Districts, P.O. Box 4998, Whittier, CA 90607, USA
  • , Ann DalkeyAffiliated withCity of Los Angeles, Environmental Monitoring Division, 12000 Vista Del Mar, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293, USA
  • , David E. MontagneAffiliated withLos Angeles County Sanitation Districts, P.O. Box 4998, Whittier, CA 90607, USA
  • , Janet K. StullAffiliated withLos Angeles County Sanitation Districts, P.O. Box 4998, Whittier, CA 90607, USA
  • , Ronald G. VelardeAffiliated withCity of San Diego, 4918 N. Harbor Drive, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
  • , J. Ananda RanasingheAffiliated withSouthern California Coastal Water Research Project, 7171 Fenwick Lane, Westminster, CA 92683, USA e-mail: anandar@sccwrp.org Tel.: +1-714-3729218; Fax: +1-714-8949699

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Abstract

A regional benthic survey was conducted in 1994, and the data were used to assess the relationship among three habitat factors (depth, sediment grain size, and latitude) and the distribution of benthic infaunal assemblages on the southern California coastal shelf. Benthic samples were collected with a 0.1 m2 Van Veen grab from 251 sites on the continental shelf (10–200 m deep) from Point Conception, California, to the United States–Mexico international border. The relationship between habitat and assemblages was investigated by conducting a Q-mode cluster analysis to define groups of stations with similar species composition and then examining whether differences were present in physical habitat attributes among those groups of stations. Analysis of data from 175 uncontaminated sites yielded four habitat-related benthic infaunal assemblages along the southern California coastal shelf: a shallow-water assemblage from 10–32 m, a mid-depth assemblage between 32 and 115 m, and two deep-water (115–200 m) assemblages, one in fine and one in coarse sediments. These empirically defined points in the depth and sediment grain size gradients can be used to define reference habitats for the development of biocriteria. Benthic abundance and diversity were greatest in the mid-depth assemblage, conforming to predictions for benthic assemblages in regions of upwelling. Within the 500 km of coastline examined, latitude was not an important factor in defining assemblages.