Observations of organic falls from the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean

Abstract

Organic falls can form nutrient-rich, ephemeral hotspots of productivity and biodiversity at the deep-sea floor, especially in food-poor abyssal plains. We report here the first wood falls and second carcass fall recorded from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, an area that could be mined for polymetallic nodules in the future. A small cetacean fall in the mobile-scavenger stage likely recently arrived on the seafloor was observed, whereas most of the wood falls were highly degraded. There were multiple species in attendance at the wood falls including organic-fall specialists such as Xylophagaidae molluscs. Many of the taxa attending the carcass fall were known mobile scavengers that regularly attend bait parcels in the Pacific Ocean. These results further confirm that wood falls can occur at large distances (>1450 km) from major land masses, providing an adequate supply of wood to the abyssal seafloor for colonization by wood-boring molluscs and associated fauna. Organic falls may be regionally abundant and are likely to influence species and habitat diversity in the abyssal areas of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the National Research Foundation of Singapore, Ocean Mineral Singapore and the National University of Singapore for supporting this work done in partnership with the Keppel-NUS Corporate Laboratory, as well as UK Seabed Resources Ltd. Cruise SO239, EcoResponse was financed by the German Ministry of Education and Science BMBF as a contribution to the European project JPI-Oceans “Ecological Aspects of Deep-Sea Mining”. PMA acknowledges funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the MIDAS project, grant agreement n° 603418 and funding from BMBF contract 03 F0707E. This work has also received funding from FCT (Apoios Especiais 2015 - Fundo de Apoio à Comunidade Científica) under the framework of JPI Oceans. AH was supported by CESAM (UID/AMB/50017) funded by FCT/MEC through national funds and by FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020.

Thanks to the Masters, crew and scientists of the RV Thompson (TN319, ABYSSLINE 02), the RV Sonne (SO239, EcoResponse) and the ROV Kiel 6000 (GEOMAR) for their support during fieldwork in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. We are grateful to the AUV REMUS6000 team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the collection of the imagery during the UKSRL-funded AYBSSLINE 02 cruise. Further thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Drazen from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa for checking fish identifications, Christopher Mah from the Smithsonian Museum for identifying the asteroids, and Kai George from Senckenberg am Meer for help in identifying the laophontodid copepods. The authors also wish to thank the three reviewers for their constructive criticism. The conclusions put forward reflect the views of the authors alone. This is UH SOEST publication number 9389.

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Correspondence to Diva J. Amon.

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The TN-319 cruise and all subsequent work by authors were partially funded by UK Seabed Resources Ltd. and Ocean Minerals Singapore. This included salary for Dr. Amon and partial salaries for Drs. Martinez-Arbizu and Smith. Research support was also provided for these authors in the form of equipment, supplies, and travel costs to an international conference to present results. However, UK Seabed Resources Ltd. and Ocean Minerals Singapore had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Communicated by S. S. M. Kaiser

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Amon, D.J., Hilario, A., Arbizu, P.M. et al. Observations of organic falls from the abyssal Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. Mar Biodiv 47, 311–321 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-016-0572-4

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Keywords

  • Whale fall
  • Wood fall
  • Scavenger
  • Clarion-Clipperton Zone
  • Deep-sea mining
  • Xylophagaidae
  • Cetacean
  • Polymetallic nodule