Sediment impacts on sponges and a deep-sea coral in New Zealand
Increased levels of suspended sediment in the water column are important factors contributing to the degradation of marine ecosystems worldwide. In coastal waters, temporal variation in suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) occurs naturally due to seasonal and oceanographic processes. However, there is evidence that anthropogenic activities are increasing sediment concentrations. The volume of sediment moving from land-based sources into coastal ecosystems and human activities in the ocean disturbing the seafloor, such as dredging and bottom-contact fisheries, have been increasing over the last century. In addition, offshore activities, particularly bottom-contact fishing and potential deep-sea mining, can create sediment plumes in the deep-sea that may extend over long distances. Elevated suspended sediment concentrations have detrimental effects on benthic communities, particularly for suspension feeders like sponges and corals.
The aim of this thesis was to investigate the effects of increased SSCs that might arise from heavy anthropogenic disturbance on common shallow water and deep-sea sponges and a deep-sea coral in New Zealand, as these groups contribute to habitat structure in some benthic environments, including the deep sea.