Stefanoudis et al. 2023

scientific article | Science of The Total Environment

Trait-based approaches reveal that deep reef ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean are functionally distinct

Stefanoudis PV, Fassbender N, Samimi-Namin K, Adam PA, Ebrahim A, Harlay J, Koester A, Samoilys M, Sims H, Swanborn D, Talma S, Winter S, Woodall L


Tropical deep reefs (>30 m) are biologically and ecologically unique ecosystems with a higher geographic reach to shallow (<30 m) reefs. Yet they are poorly understood and rarely considered in conservation practices. Here, we characterise benthic and fish communities across a depth gradient (10–350 m) in remote coral atolls in Seychelles, Western Indian Ocean. Using taxonomic and trait-based approaches we present the taxonomic and functional composition of shallow and deep reef communities, with distinct communities and traits dominating different depths. Depth-related changes in community metrics (taxa richness, abundance and biomass) and functional diversity metrics (richness, dispersion, and evenness) indicate complex relationships across different biological components (fish, benthos) that differ between shallow and deep reefs. These in turn translate into different patterns of reef resilience against disturbance or species invasions with depth. Notably, deep reefs host on average fewer and less abundant taxa but with higher functional contribution and originality scores, some of which are of conservation concern. Overall, the results highlight the unique nature of deep reefs that requires their explicit consideration in conservation and management activities.

Depth range
10- 350 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
38 x (total of 6603 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on 'mesophotic' depth range
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'

Community structure
Management and Conservation

Antipatharia (Black Corals)
Other invertebrates
Overall benthic (groups)
Scleractinia (Hard Corals)


Manned Submersible
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)
SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)
Surface-deployed sensors and samplers

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