Seamounts and their influence on the surrounding environment are currently being extensively debated but, surprisingly, scant information is available for the Mediterranean area. Furthermore, although the deep Tyrrhenian Sea is characterised by a complex bottom morphology and peculiar hydrodynamic features, which would suggest a variable influence on the benthic domain, few studies have been carried out there, especially for soft-bottom macrofaunal assemblages. In order to fill this gap, the structure of the meio-and macrofaunal assemblages of the Vercelli Seamount and the surrounding deep area (northern Tyrrhenian Sea – western Mediterranean) were studied in relation to environmental features. Sediment was collected with a box-corer from the seamount summit and flanks and at two far-field sites in spring 2009, in order to analyse the metazoan communities, the sediment texture and the sedimentary organic matter. At the summit station, the heterogeneity of the habitat, the shallowness of the site and the higher trophic supply (water column phytopigments and macroalgal detritus, for instance) supported a very rich macrofaunal community, with high abundance, biomass and diversity. In fact, its trophic features resembled those observed in coastal environments next to seagrass meadows. At the flank and far-field stations, sediment heterogeneity and depth especially influenced the meiofaunal distribution. From a trophic point of view, the low content of the valuable sedimentary proteins that was found confirmed the general oligotrophy of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and exerted a limiting influence on the abundance and biomass of the assemblages. In this scenario, the rather refractory sedimentary carbohydrates became a food source for metazoans, which increased their abundance and biomass at the stations where the hydrolytic-enzyme-mediated turnover of carbohydrates was faster, highlighting high lability.
Italy - Tyrrhenian Sea
Coring / drilling