Detection of community-wide impacts of bottom trawl fishing on deep-sea assemblages using environmental DNA metabarcoding

Good, Edward; Holman, Luke E.; Pusceddu, Antonio; Russo, Tommaso; Rius, Marc; Lo Iacono, Claudio. Marine Pollution Bulletin 183 : 114062 (2022).  DIGITAL CSIC   

Although considerable research progress on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance in the deep sea has been made in recent years, our understanding of these impacts at community level remains limited. Here, we studied deep-sea assemblages of Sicily (Mediterranean Sea) subject to different intensities of benthic trawling using environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding and taxonomic identification of meiofauna communities. Firstly, eDNA metabarcoding data did not detect trawling impacts using alpha diversity whereas meiofauna data detected a significant effect of trawling. Secondly, both eDNA and meiofauna data detected significantly different communities across distinct levels of trawling intensity when we examined beta diversity. Taxonomic assignment of the eDNA data revealed that Bryozoa was present only at untrawled sites, highlighting their vulnerability to trawling. Our results provide evidence for community-wide impacts of trawling, with different trawling intensities leading to distinct deep-sea communities. Finally, we highlight the need for further studies to unravel understudied deep-sea biodiversity.