Environmental DNA surveys detect distinct metazoan communities across abyssal plains and seamounts in the western Clarion Clipperton Zone
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Environmental DNA surveys detect distinct metazoan communities across abyssal plains and seamounts in the western Clarion Clipperton Zone

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  • Journal Title:
    Molecular Ecology
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    The deep seafloor serves as a reservoir of biodiversity in the global ocean, with >80% of invertebrates at abyssal depths still undescribed. These diverse and remote deep‐sea communities are critically under‐sampled and increasingly threatened by anthropogenic impacts, including future polymetallic nodule mining. Using a multigene environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding approach, we characterized metazoan communities sampled from sediments, polymetallic nodules and seawater in the western Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) to test the hypotheses that deep seamounts (a) are species richness hotspots in the abyss, (b) have structurally distinct communities in comparison to other deep‐sea habitats, and (c) that seafloor particulate organic carbon (POC) flux and polymetallic nodule density are positively correlated with metazoan diversity. eDNA metabarcoding was effective at characterizing distinct biotas known to occur in association with different abyssal substrate types (e.g., nodule‐ and sediment‐specific fauna), with distinct community composition and few taxa shared across substrates. Seamount faunas had higher overall taxonomic richness, and different community composition and biogeography than adjacent abyssal plains, with seamount communities displaying less connectivity between regions than comparable assemblages on the abyssal plains. Across an estimated gradient of low to moderate POC flux, we find lowest taxon richness at the lowest POC flux, as well as an effect of nodule size on community composition. Our results suggest that while abyssal seamounts are important reservoirs of metazoan diversity in the CCZ, given limited taxonomic overlap between seamount and plains fauna, conservation of seamount assemblages will be insufficient to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function in regions targeted for mining.
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    Mol Ecol.29(23): 1–17.
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    CC BY
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