Ecosystem engineer morphological traits and taxon identity shape biodiversity across the euphotic-mesophotic transition

Sofie E. Voerman, Beauregard C. Marsh, Ricardo G. Bahia, Guilherme H. Pereira-Filho, Thomas W. Yee, Ana Clara F. Becker, Gilberto M. Amado-Filho, Arvydas Ruseckas, Graham A. Turnbull, Ifor D. W. Samuel, Heidi L. Burdett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The euphotic-mesophotic transition is characterized by dramatic changes in environmental conditions, which can significantly alter the functioning of ecosystem engineers and the structure of their associated communities. However, the drivers of biodiversity change across the euphotic-mesophotic transition remain unclear. Here, we investigated the mechanisms affecting the biodiversity-supporting potential of free-living red coralline algae-globally important habitat creators-towards mesophotic depths. Across a 73 m depth gradient, we observed a general decline in macrofaunal biodiversity (fauna abundance, taxon richness and alpha diversity), but an increase in beta-diversity (i.e. variation between assemblages) at the deepest site (86 m depth, where light levels were less than 1% surface irradiance). We identified a gradient in abundance decline rather than distinct ecological shifts, driven by a complex interaction between declining light availability, declining size of the coralline algal host individuals and a changing host taxonomy. However, despite abundance declines, high between-assemblage variability at deeper depths allowed biodiversity-supporting potential to be maintained, highlighting their importance as coastal refugia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211834
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1969
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2022


  • biogenic habitat
  • ecosystem shift
  • maerl
  • mesophotic reef
  • rhodolith

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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