Restoration of deep-sea macrofauna after simulated benthic disturbance in the Central Indian Basin
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Macrofaunal communities of the Central Indian Basin (CIB) were sampled with a spade before (June 1997), and immediately after (August 1997), and 44 months (April 2001) after a simulated benthic disturbance for polymetallic nodule mining. The average density recorded down to a sediment depth of 40 cm ranged from 89 to 799 ind m sup(-2) (mean: 373 plus or minus 221 SD; n = 12) and 178–1066 ind.m sup(-2) (mean: 507 plus or minus 489 SD; n = 3) in the test and reference area, respectively. Most of the macrobenthic animals (64%) were concentrated in the upper 0 to 2 cm sediment layers, whereas, sizeable fauna (6%) inhabited the 20–40 cm sediment section and the deepest 5 cm section from 35–40 cm contributed only about 2% to the total population density. The fauna, comprised of 12 groups, were dominated by the nematodes, which constituted 54% of the total population. The macrofaunal density in the test site showed a significant increase (x:400 ind plus or minus m sup(-2)) in the 44 months postdisturbance sampling (x:320 ind plus or minus m sup(-2)). The population of nematodes and oligochaetes was nearly restored after 44 months, but the polychaetes and crustaceans did not reach the baseline populations measured in June 1997. The top 0–2 cm sediment layer was severely affected by the disturber, and the study suggests that physically disturbed deep-sea macrofauna may require a longer period for restoration and resettlement than normally believed.
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