National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
4 - 6 June 2007
Organized by Alan J. Hughes and Lénaick Menot
Bathyal continental margins (200 to 3000 m water depth) occupy 17.8% of the World Ocean area and offer a wide variety of environmental conditions owing to differences in water depth, surface primary productivity, current activity, the topography of the seafloor, sediment characteristics, underlying geology, lateral and downslope sediment transport processes and the physical and chemical nature of the overlying water masses. All these factors are known to, or are suspected to, structure benthic communities thus creating a patchwork of habitats at various spatial scales on continental margins. Habitat heterogeneity enhances species turnover and regional scale diversity. Explanatory models for diversity patterns on continental margins should thus include references to habitat heterogeneity. Furthermore, habitat classification and mapping is increasingly demanded by governmental agencies, stakeholders or private companies for the purpose of resource management and conservation. However, the way habitats are defined, described and named is itself heterogeneous in the deep sea.
A multidisciplinary workshop, attended by 22 biologists and geologists, was held at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton from 4 to 6 June 2007 in order to lay the basis of a habitat classification scheme for COMARGE. The talks given by participants gave a large overview of habitat classification and mapping issues including principles guiding a classification, methods in habitat mappings and case studies.