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Fábio L. Matos, CESAM, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Joan B. Company, Institute of Marine Sciences, CSIC, Barcelona, Spain
Marina R Cunha, CESAM, University of Aveiro, Portugal.
Connecting dots across Mediterranean seascape: the role of submarine canyons on Lophelia pertusa connectivity

The importance of submarine canyons in the benthic and pelagic ecosystem functioning has attracted the scientific attention in the recent years. Awareness on the need for protection and conservation of various habitats occurring in canyons, such as the cold-water corals classified as Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, has grown progressively with our perception of the anthropogenic impacts. Canyons occur in the Mediterranean Sea in high number and they are more closely spaced here then in other areas of the world which may be a crucial factor for the connectivity of their communities. Knowledge on the spatial dynamics and limitations of this key process for community resilience and metapopulation persistence is fundamental for implementing effective conservation measures. Being a sessile species when adult and having a larval dispersal stage, Lophelia pertusa is an attractive species to model connectivity in the deep sea. Understanding the importance of the seascape configuration on the L. pertusa connectivity is the main objective of this work. A multidisciplinary approach is used to assess the role of habitat availability and suitability in the dispersal capability of the species. We integrated habitat suitability and biophysical dispersal modelling with graph analysis in order to explore the interaction between the seascape (habitat structure and oceanography) and L. pertusa potential connectivity. Graph-based analysis emerged in ecology as a promising tool to study the functional and structural connectivity. The habitat suitability map was produced using MaxEnt, a niche ecological model, and the output was obtained with the lagrangian-based system “Connectivity System Model”. A geographically explicit network was generated based on the potential connectivity output and the relative importance of the habitat patches in the seascape configuration was analysed. The network analysis allows the characterization of the spatial structure of population sources and sinks, the occurrence of corridors or barriers and provides hypotheses on L. pertusa connectivity across the Mediterranean, which can be empirically tested.

Theme 3: Biological patterns in submarine canyons: role of scale and heterogeneity
Poster Presentation
Network analysis, Spatial graph, Seascape connectivity, Spatial dynamics, Biophysical model