Invertebrate settlement and diversity on a glass sponge reef
Keywords:Glass sponge reefs, invertebrates, Porifera, community structure, juvenile settlement
Glass sponge reefs are an ecosystem unique to the continental shelf of the northeast Pacific Ocean. Due to their vulnerability and limited distribution, several sponge reef protection initiatives exist within Canadian waters with the common goal of conserving biodiversity. To date, the biodiversity associated with sponge reefs has largely been assessed using remote video methods that allow us to describe large fauna associated with the reefs. However, small organisms are typically missed, resulting in an underestimate of reef-associated biodiversity. In this study we aimed to further describe invertebrate biodiversity associated with sponge reefs. Sponge reefs recently discovered in Howe Sound, British Columbia are within safe recreational SCUBA diving limits allowing us to examine macrofaunal settlement timing and community structure using diver-deployed settlement plates. We examined the effect of settlement plate material and elevation above the benthos within the reef on invertebrate community structure. A total of 70 taxa settled on the plates representing 10 phyla, including two phyla not previously described on sponge reefs: Nemertea (ribbon worms) and Platyhelminthes (flatworms). There were no significant differences in taxa richness, diversity, or community structure associated with settlement plate material or height above the benthos. Ours is the first report of invertebrate settlement on a sponge reef in the Salish Sea and the first description of larval settlement timing for nine invertebrate species in the northeast Pacific.
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