|Developing the Seamount Ecosystem Evaluation Frameworks for the Pacific Ocean: Knowledge status and potential productivity|
Taranto, G.H. (2011). Developing the Seamount Ecosystem Evaluation Frameworks for the Pacific Ocean: Knowledge status and potential productivity. MSc Thesis. University of the Azores: Punta Delgada. 34, x pp.
Seamounts are prominent and ubiquitous features of the world?s underwater topography. Different theories have described seamounts as a homogeneous habitat with enhanced biological production, distinctive faunal assemblages and high numbers of endemism. However, the limited amount of ecological and biological data leaves these „seamount effects? to a great extent untested. In this work the development of the Seamount Ecosystem Evaluation Framework for Pacific seamounts provides a thorough overview of how our ecological, geological and oceanographic understanding of seamount ecosystems has evolved over the past sixty years how it may change in future. In the second part of this study, data regarding individual features was then used to examine to which extent seamounts represent a homogeneous habitat. In particular, a seamount productivity index was developed using a fuzzy logic approach to assess the potential productivity of individual relieves based on their physical setting. Overall poor biological and oceanographic characterization of Pacific seamounts emerged from the reviewed literature and at the current rate of ecological data accumulation it will be unlikely to have enough information to test the seamount effects on the assessed features in the near future. On the contrary, the geological knowledge is growing at a faster rate and a good geological characterization of part of the Pacific seamounts will be possible in the next few years. The application of the productivity index on the seamounts included in the framework suggested that these submarine features may experience very different levels of productivity. If the outcomes of the model will be confirmed in future works only a small fraction of seamounts will likely have increased productivity. A revision of some of the theories considering seamount as a uniform habitat may be needed. An acceleration of the biological and ecological investigation is necessary in order to finally clarify the role seamounts play in deep sea ecosystems and to indicate the more appropriate management and conservation strategies.