In this paper, we used multibeam bathymetry and backscatter, high-resolution seismic profiles, ROV video images and sediment samples to identify the principal morpho-sedimentary features and related megabenthic communities along the upper reach of the Gioia Canyon (depth < 600 m) and the surrounding shelf and slope areas. Interpretation of the multidisciplinary dataset was undertaken to evaluate the relationships between seafloor characteristics and faunal distribution along a submarine canyon in an active tectonic setting. The results from this study indicate that physical disturbance on the seafloor at the canyon head and surrounding shelf, related to high sedimentation rates and occasional turbidite flows, may limit the variability of megabenthic communities. Evidence of diffuse trawl marks over soft sedimentary bottoms indicates anthropogenic impact due to fishing activities, which could explain low abundances of megabenthic species observed locally. The canyon margins and flanks along the continental slope host octocorals Funiculina quadrangularis and Isidella elongata, species that are indicative of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and relevant in terms of sustainable management priorities. At the Palmi Ridge, the occurrence of outcropping rocks and bottom currents related to the presence of Levantine Intermediate Waters, provide conditions for the development of hard-bottom assemblages, including the black coral Antipathella subpinnata and deep-sea sponges fields.
Overall benthic (groups)
Italy - Tyrrhenian Sea