Observations of the habitats and biodiversity of the submarine canyons at Sodwana Bay.

Sink, K.J. and Boshoff, W. and Samaai, T. and Timm, P.G. and Kerwath, S.E. (2006) Observations of the habitats and biodiversity of the submarine canyons at Sodwana Bay. South African Journal of Science, 102 (9/10). pp. 466-474. ISSN 0038-2353

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Abstract

The discovery of coelacanths, Latimeria chalumnae, in Jesser Canyon off Sodwana Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal in 2000 triggered renewed interest in the deep subtidal habitats associated with submarine canyons. Information stemming from three recreational Trimix diving expeditions in Wright and Jesser canyons between April 1998 and June 2001 revealed distinct and diverse invertebrate and fish communities in the canyons of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (GSLWP). In total, 69 invertebrate taxa were collected from Wright Canyon, including at least 15 new records for South Africa plus 11 potential new species and 16 range or depth extensions. Divers documented the first five coelacanth specimens and obtained information on fish distribution and abundance. Five different habitat types were recognized supporting distinct biological communities; the sandy plains outside of the canyons, scattered rock outcrops within the sandy plains, the canyon margin, canyon walls and caves and overhangs. The canyon margin is the richest habitat and supports dense communities of invertebrate suspension feeders, as well as a diverse and abundant fish fauna. Dominant canyon invertebrates included sponges, black corals, gorgonians, alcyonarian soft corals and stylasterine lace corals. These invertebrates support a diverse epifauna including basket- and brittlestars, winged oysters and other molluscs. The canyons within the GSLWP protect large populations of commercially important linefish species including the sparids, Chrysoblephus puniceus, C. anglicus, Polysteganus praeorbitalis and P. caeruleopunctatus, as well as several species of serranids and lutjanids. Additional biological sampling and standardized quantitative sampling within the canyons and deep reefs is required to develop a better understanding of their biological communities and the factors that shape them.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Coelacanth; Fish communities; Latimeriidae; Submarine topography; Submarine valleys; Biocomplexity; Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa)
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Ichthyology & Fisheries Science
ID Code:892
Deposited By: Ms Vivien Botha
Deposited On:14 Dec 2007
Last Modified:02 Aug 2012 07:48
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