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Investigating the benthic megafauna in the eastern Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (north-east Pacific) based on distribution models predicted with random forest
Uhlenkott, K.; Simon-Lledó, E.; Vink, A.; Martinez Arbizu, P. (2022). Investigating the benthic megafauna in the eastern Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (north-east Pacific) based on distribution models predicted with random forest. NPG Scientific Reports 12(1): 8229. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-12323-0
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine/Coastal

Authors  Top 
  • Uhlenkott, K.
  • Simon-Lledó, E.
  • Vink, A.
  • Martinez Arbizu, P.

Abstract
    The eastern Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone (CCZ) is a heterogeneous abyssal environment harbouring relatively low abundances of highly diverse megafauna communities. Potential future mining of polymetallic nodules threatens these benthic communities and calls for detailed spatial investigation of megafauna. Based on the predicted probability of occurrence of 68 megafauna morphotypes, a seabed area extending over 62,000 km2 was divided into three assemblages covering an eastern plain area, a deeper western plain area and an area covering both seamount and abyssal hill sites. Richness, estimated as the sum of morphotypes with a predicted probability of occurrence larger than 0.5, amounts to 15.4 of 68 morphotypes. Highest richness was predicted at seamount sites, and lowest richness in the western part of the study area. Combining the predicted probability of megafauna occurrences with bathymetric variables, two seamount habitats and two plain habitats could be defined. One of these megafauna plain habitats corresponds with contiguous nodule fields of high abundance that may be targeted for future mining, showing that prospective nodule fields have a clearly differentiated megafauna assemblage. Monitoring and management schemes, including the delineation of preservation and protection areas within contract areas, need to incorporate this geological and biological heterogeneity.

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