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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-359
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-359
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  14 Oct 2020

14 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Review and syntheses: Turbidity flows – evidence for effects on deep-sea benthic community productivity is ambiguous but the influence on diversity is clearer

Katharine T. Bigham1,2, Ashley A. Rowden1,2, Daniel Leduc2, and David A. Bowden2 Katharine T. Bigham et al.
  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, 6140, New Zealand
  • 2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, 6021, New Zealand

Abstract. Turbidity flows – underwater avalanches – are large-scale physical disturbances that are believed to have profound and lasting impacts on benthic communities in the deep sea, with hypothesised effects on both productivity and diversity. In this review we summarize the physical characteristics of turbidity flows and the mechanisms by which they influence deep sea benthic communities, both as an immediate pulse-type disturbance and through longer term press-type impacts. Further, we use data from turbidity flows that occurred hundreds to thousands of years ago as well as three more recent events to assess published hypotheses that turbidity flows affect productivity and diversity. We found, unlike previous reviews, that evidence for changes in productivity in the studies was ambiguous at best, whereas the influence on regional and local diversity was more clear-cut: as had previously been hypothesized turbidity flows decrease local diversity but create mosaics of habitat patches that contribute to increased regional diversity. Studies of more recent turbidity flows provide greater insights into their impacts in the deep sea but without pre-disturbance data the factors that drive patterns in benthic community productivity and diversity, be they physical, chemical, or a combination thereof, still cannot be identified. We propose criteria for data that would be necessary for testing these hypotheses and suggest that studies of Kaikōura Canyon, New Zealand, where an earthquake-triggered turbidity flow occurred in 2016, will present helpful insights into the impacts of turbidity flows on deep-sea benthic communities.

Katharine T. Bigham et al.

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Katharine T. Bigham et al.

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