An atlas of seabed biodiversity for Aotearoa New Zealand
Abstract. The waters of Aotearoa New Zealand span over 4.2 million km2 of the South Pacific Ocean and harbour a rich diversity of seafloor associated taxa. Due to the immensity and remoteness of the area, there are significant gaps in the availability of data to quantify and map the distribution of seafloor and demersal biodiversity, limiting effective management. In this study, we describe the development and accessibility of an online atlas of seabed biodiversity that aims to fill these gaps. Species distribution models were developed for 579 taxa across four taxonomic groups: demersal fish, reef fish, subtidal invertebrates and macroalgae. Spatial layers for taxa distribution based on habitat suitability were statistically validated and then, as a further check, evaluated by taxonomic experts to provide measures of confidence to guide the future use of these layers. Spatially explicit uncertainty (SD) layers were also developed for each taxon distribution. We generated layer-specific metadata, including statistical and expert evaluation scores, which were uploaded alongside the accompanying spatial layers to the open access database Zonodo. This database provides the most comprehensive source of information on the distribution of seafloor taxa for Aotearoa New Zealand and is thus an invaluable resource for managers, researchers and the public that will guide the management and conservation of seafloor communities.
Fabrice Stephenson et al.
Status: open (until 01 Apr 2023)
- RC1: 'Comment on essd-2023-18', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Mar 2023 reply
Fabrice Stephenson et al.
An atlas of seabed biodiversity for Aotearoa New Zealand https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7083642
Fabrice Stephenson et al.
Viewed (geographical distribution)
Please receive my report for the proposed paper, which is very positive given the importance and presentation style of the described data.
My “minor comments” are indicated below:
Line 85. “spatial distributions were generated for each taxon from four biotic groups “. I suggest to clearly define the habitats for the groups with some sort of seascape approach in which the general features of the dominating geomorphology are considered.
“Demersal fish”, this name is referring to fishery resources. Therefore, I would suggest to disambiguate that diction by stating that authors are referring to muddy bottoms in continental margins. Also, “reef fish” is ambiguous since “reef habitat” (line 94) are nor clearly defined. There are rocky reefs but also biogenic reefs (e.g. deep-sea corals).
Line 85 and Figure 1. Please revise the N (235 vs 239 for Demersal fish taxa
Lines 87-89. For all names and acronyms, please choose if place the first letter in majuscule or not throughout the MS.
Line 90, about figure 2. In that figure:
1-To better appreciate the message I would provide a plate collating A and B into a zoomed sub-area.
2-I feel missing a plate where data collection geographic points are indicated in a third plate. In that manner the whole conceptual data elaboration/modeling process could be appreciated.
Line 105. “20 spatially explicit environmental variables”. The characterisation of a habitat envelope is a fundamental importance for modelling species distributions in areas with no sampling data. More details should be provided in the supplementary material about environmental data extraction. For example, how authors derived Seabed Temperature and Salinity based on surface (SST) data? Authors quote in the table "Oceanographic data from CARS2009 (NIWA, unpublished 2009). This is quoted also for other environmental variables. More details would be welcome here on that procedure ("Derived from SST described above at two resolutions and merged"??). Also, it may be beneficial to have BotTemp and SSTGad sequentially together in the Supplementary Table.
Lines 120-125. “The expert assessment focussed on the congruence between predicted taxa distribution and expert view of taxa distribution,…….”. In the supplementary materials for Demersal fish is stated that data come from: “research trawl database ‘TRAWL’ (Niwa, 2014, 2018)”. More details on this data source could be provided in short here (e.g. VMS/Blue boxes for CPUE exc.).
For example, "all catch records were converted into presence” as stated in supp. mat. More than "presence", "temporal persistence" as sustained availability to trawls could be used. As it stands now, it seems that a single event of catch may be converted into "1", but it could be a random phenomenon.
In fact, for Subtidal invertebrates, the data treatment information on fishery-based sampling is more precise: "Lines 35-40" and issues on "opportunistic sampling" (Line 41) are addressed.
Line 129. Are authors mean "Figure 2"?
Table 1. Again 235 or 239 (as per Figure 1)?
Figure 3. In which way, a generic user could look directly for a particular species’ distribution without considering the proposed taxonomic/ecological groupings (i.e., without downloading the whole set of data)? A Zenodo interface with potential querying for a particular species may increase the appeal of the data set for more generic users. Would it be possible?
Lines 183-185. “…..layers provides an accessible source of data layers to inform further research.”. Other possible semantic layers of information as maps to be added to the downloading package (to support decision-making) could be already potentially available:
-cargos traffic routes by blue boxes (that determine noise and littering)
-actual trawlers/long-liners operational grounds on continental margins (that determine ghost nets fishing/pollution as discharged nets and wire entanglement; trawl marks reefs damages)
-projected mining areas (future biodiversity treats)