We investigated how interactions between hydrography, topography and species ecology influence the assembly of species and functional traits across multiple spatial scales of a cold-water coral reef seascape. In a novel approach for these ecosystems, we used a spatially resolved complex three-dimensional flow model of hydrography to help explain assembly patterns. Forward-selection of distance-based Moran’s eigenvector mapping (dbMEM) variables identified two submodels of spatial scales at which communities change: broad-scale (across reef) and fine-scale (within reef). Variance partitioning identified bathymetric and hydrographic gradients important in creating broad-scale assembly of species and traits. In contrast, fine-scale assembly was related more to processes that created spatially autocorrelated patches of fauna, such as philopatric recruitment in sessile fauna, and social interactions and food supply in scavenging detritivores and mobile predators. Our study shows how habitat modification of reef connectivity and hydrography by bottom fishing and renewable energy installations could alter the structure and function of an entire cold-water coral reef seascape.