Habitat heterogeneity of hadal trenches: Considerations and implications for future studies

Heather A. Stewart, Alan J. Jamieson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The hadal zone largely comprises a series of subduction trenches that do not form part of the continental shelf-slope rise to abyssal plain continuum. Instead they form geographically isolated clusters of deep-sea (6000–11,000 m water depth) environments. There is a growing realization in hadal science that ecological patterns and processes are not driven solely by responses to hydrostatic pressure, with comparable levels of habitat heterogeneity as observed in other marine biozones. Furthermore, this heterogeneity can be expressed at multiple scales from inter-trench levels (degrees of geographical isolation, and biochemical province), to intra-trench levels (variation between trench flanks and axis), topographical features within the trench interior (sedimentary basins, ridges, escarpments, ‘deeps’ seamounts) to the substrate of the trench floor (seabed-sediment composition, mass movement deposits, bedrock outcrop). Using best available bathymetry data combined with the largest lander-derived imaging dataset that spans the full depth range of three hadal trenches (including adjacent slopes); the Mariana, Kermadec and New Hebrides trenches, the topographic variability, fine-scale habitat heterogeneity and distribution of seabed sediments of these three trenches have been assessed for the first time. As well as serving as the first descriptive study of habitat heterogeneity at hadal depths, this study also provides guidance for future hadal sampling campaigns taking into account geographic isolation, total trench particulate organic matter flux, maximum water depth and area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-65
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


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