Preprints
https://doi.org/10.31223/X58968
https://doi.org/10.31223/X58968
02 Feb 2024
 | 02 Feb 2024

Year-long benthic measurements of environmental conditions indicate high sponge biomass is related to strong bottom currents over the Northern Labrador shelf

Evert de Froe, Igor Yashayaev, Christian Mohn, Johanne Vad, Furu Mienis, Gerard Duineveld, Ellen Kenchington, Erica Head, Steve Ross, Sabena Blackbird, George Wolff, Murray Roberts, Barry MacDonald, Graham Tulloch, and Dick van Oevelen

Abstract. Deep-sea sponge grounds are distributed globally and are considered hotspots of biological diversity and biogeochemical cycling. To date, little is known about the environmental constraints that control where deep-sea sponge grounds occur and what conditions allow high sponge biomass to develop in the deep sea. Here, we characterize oceanographic conditions at two contrasting high- and low-sponge-biomass sites off the northern Labrador Shelf in Canadian waters. Unique data for the region were collected by year-long benthic lander deployments equipped with current meters, turbidity and chlorophyll-a sensors, and sediment traps. Additionally, the regional oceanography was described by analysing vertical conductivity/salinity-temperature-depth (CTD) and Argo float profiles for the Northern Labrador Shelf from 2005 to 2022, including those from the CTD casts taken at the benthic lander stations. Benthic fauna stable isotopes were analysed to identify potential food sources. Our results revealed strong (0.26 ± 0.14 m s-1; mean ± SD) semidiurnal tidal currents at the high-sponge-biomass site, but twofold weaker currents (0.14 ± 0.08 m s-1; mean ± SD) at the low-sponge-biomass site. These tidal currents cause periodic temperature fluctuations, sediment resuspension, intense vertical flows across the slope, which during spring, contribute to transport of organic material to the seafloor during a diurnal tidal cycle. Periodic fluctuations in bottom water temperature confirm the amplified transport across the shelf break at the high-sponge-biomass site. The high-sponge-biomass area is situated where the Hudson Strait Ouflow, the Irminger Current, and the West Greenland Current converge, which could lead to downwelling. Bottom silicate concentrations were increased at the high-biomass sponge ground due to advection of silicate-rich bottom water from Baffin Bay. Finally, the arrival of chlorophyll-a rich material in spring at both the low- and high-sponge-biomass sites demonstrated tight benthic-pelagic coupling prior to the onset of stratification. Mass fluxes of trapped material were higher and consisted of less degraded material at the high-sponge-biomass site. Stable isotope signatures indicated that soft corals (Primnoa resedaeformis) fed on suspended particulate organic matter, while massive sponges (Geodia spp.) likely utilized additional food sources. Our results imply that benthic fauna at the high-sponge-biomass site benefit from strong tidal currents, which increases food supply, and favourable regional ocean currents that increase nutrient concentration in bottom waters.

Evert de Froe, Igor Yashayaev, Christian Mohn, Johanne Vad, Furu Mienis, Gerard Duineveld, Ellen Kenchington, Erica Head, Steve Ross, Sabena Blackbird, George Wolff, Murray Roberts, Barry MacDonald, Graham Tulloch, and Dick van Oevelen

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-245', Ulrike Hanz, 16 Feb 2024
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Evert de Froe, 17 May 2024
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-245', Anonymous Referee #2, 16 Apr 2024
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Evert de Froe, 17 May 2024
Evert de Froe, Igor Yashayaev, Christian Mohn, Johanne Vad, Furu Mienis, Gerard Duineveld, Ellen Kenchington, Erica Head, Steve Ross, Sabena Blackbird, George Wolff, Murray Roberts, Barry MacDonald, Graham Tulloch, and Dick van Oevelen
Evert de Froe, Igor Yashayaev, Christian Mohn, Johanne Vad, Furu Mienis, Gerard Duineveld, Ellen Kenchington, Erica Head, Steve Ross, Sabena Blackbird, George Wolff, Murray Roberts, Barry MacDonald, Graham Tulloch, and Dick van Oevelen

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Short summary
Deep-sea sponge grounds are distributed globally and are considered hotspots of biological diversity and biogeochemical cycling. To date, little is known about the environmental constraints that control where deep-sea sponge grounds occur and what conditions favor high sponge biomass. Here, we characterize oceanographic conditions at two contrasting sponge grounds. Our results imply that sponges and associated fauna benefit from strong tidal currents and favorable regional ocean currents.