Bosch et al. 2023

scientific article | Sci Rep | open access

Black coral forests enhance taxonomic and functional distinctiveness of mesophotic fishes in an oceanic island: implications for biodiversity conservation

Bosch NE, Espino F, Tuya F, Haroun R, Bramanti L, Otero-Ferrer F.


The degradation of shallow ecosystems has called for efforts to understand the biodiversity and functioning of Mesophotic Ecosystems. However, most empirical studies have been restricted to tropical regions and have majorly focused on taxonomic entities (i.e., species), neglecting important dimensions of biodiversity that influence community assembly and ecosystem functioning. Here, using a subtropical oceanic island in the eastern Atlantic Ocean (Lanzarote, Canary Islands), we investigated variation in (a) alpha and (b) beta functional (i.e., trait) diversity across a depth gradient (0–70 m), as a function of the presence of black coral forests (BCFs, order Antipatharian) in the mesophotic strata, a vulnerable but often overlooked ‘ecosystem engineer’ in regional biodiversity. Despite occupying a similar volume of the functional space (i.e., functional richness) than shallow (< 30 m) reefs, mesophotic fish assemblages inhabiting BCFs differed in their functional structure when accounting for species abundances, with lower evenness and divergence. Similarly, although mesophotic BCFs shared, on average, 90% of the functional entities with shallow reefs, the identity of common and dominant taxonomic and functional entities shifted. Our results suggest BCFs promoted the specialization of reef fishes, likely linked to convergence towards optimal traits to maximize the use of resources and space. Regional biodiversity planning should thus focus on developing specific management and conservation strategies for preserving the unique biodiversity and functionality of mesophotic BCFs.

Depth range
0- 70 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
50 x (total of 5700 words)

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

Community structure
Management and Conservation

Antipatharia (Black Corals)

Spain - Canary Islands


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