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EBSA overview  |  Delineation |  Summary of description updates  | Revised/Proposed description

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EBSA overview

Protea Seamount is in the south Atlantic abyss, off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf in South Africa. This seamount is poorly studied, and little is known about the local diversity, particularly with respect to sessile invertebrate organisms and deeper reef habitats. No records exist on fish or benthic invertebrate species, and it is unknown if reef-like cold water coral habitats are present. However, it is known to be frequented by migrating leatherback turtles, and is an important region for ferro-manganese deposits. Presumably it provides similar ecological functions to other seamounts, such as elevated productivity, and support for important life-history stages. It is recognised in South African as a priority area for protection due to its vulnerability to pelagic fishing and benthic trawling.

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Delineation

Open or collapse the legend as a sidebar by clicking the icon in the top left corner of the map. In the legend you can turn on/off the old/new extents of the EBSA. You can zoom in/out using the mouse or the +/- buttons on the map, and click on the features for more information.

 

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Summary of updates and revisions to the EBSA description

This description was not formally submitted previously to CBD. There has been major revision to the introduction, and feature description of the area. Rankings of the criteria are proposed based on inference from other seamount-related EBSAs.

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Revised/Proposed EBSA description

NOTE: Read this here, or download the Word document on the right sidebar.

 

Preamble

Given that there is limited information about Protea Seamount, here is a summary of the criteria rankings for 13 other EBSAs that include seamounts. This summary could serve as a guide to the criteria rankings where information specific to Protea Seamount is lacking. Seamounts appear to trigger mainly the Uniqueness, Productivity, Life-history Stages and Vulnerability criteria. For reference, current Protea Seamount rankings (in order of the criteria listed in the graph below) are: 1. Data deficient (propose: medium); 2. Data deficient; 3. Data deficient (propose: medium/high); 4. High; 5. Data deficient; 6. Data deficient (propose: medium/high); 7. Data deficient (propose: medium/high).

 

Abstract

(in less than 150 words)

The Protea Seamount focus area is within the South African EEZ off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf, which is an oceanic plateau that extends several hundreds of kilometres south of South Africa, in the south Atlantic abyss (S 36° 50' 0'' E 18° 5' 0''). The area where the seamount is located is an important region for Ferro- manganese deposits. Protea Seamount is not well known and no records exist on fish or benthic invertebrate species, and especially if reef-like cold water coral habitats are present. Little is known about the diversity on this seamount, particularly with respect to sessile invertebrate organisms and deeper reef habitats. According to a recent analysis to identify priority areas for seabed and pelagic protection within the South African EEZ (Sink et al., 2012), Protea Seamount had the highest selection frequency for protection due to its vulnerability to both pelagic fishing and benthic trawling. In summary, it is highly relevant in terms of the following EBSA criteria: ‘Importance for threatened, Endangered or declining species and/or habitats’, ‘biological diversity’ and ‘naturalness’.

 

Introduction

(To include: feature type(s) presented, geographic description, depth range, oceanography, general information data reported, availability of models)

The Protea Seamount focus area is within the South African EEZ off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf, which is an oceanic plateau that extends several hundreds of kilometres south of South Africa, in the south Atlantic abyss (S 36° 50' 0'' E 18° 5' 0''). The area where the seamount is located is an important region for Ferro- manganese deposits. The seamount is associated with widely distributed Late Eocene volcanism that created many seamount clusters in the area. Protea Seamount, the only named seamount in this area, is about 1500 m high, rising from a basal water depth of 4000 m to a summit depth of 400 m.

 

In a national project involving mapping of biodiversity features, processes, and threats to identify priority offshore marine protected areas for seabed and pelagic protection in South Africa (Sink et al., 2012), Protea Seamount had the highest selection frequency for protection due to its vulnerability to both pelagic fishing and benthic trawling. Our understanding of species, communities, and connectivity of Protea Seamount along the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf is poor, and this precludes any attempt at seamount biodiversity conservation and exploited fisheries management within this highly productive ecosystem. Having said that, implementing measures to avoid significant adverse impacts to this vulnerable marine ecosystem (VME) needs to be implemented as our knowledge of this seamount ecosystem is still very rudimentary. The Agulhas Current, which flows south-westward along the eastern coast of South Africa, has its retroflection in the region around Protea Seamount. The location of Protea Seamount in relation to the Agulhas basin, Agulhas continental shelf and other seamounts in the chain, and the prevailing retroflective Agulhas Current, entail that Protea Seamount is an important aggregation site for highly migratory species, such as sharks, tuna and turtles. These animals are also likely attracted to the site for the higher local productivity that is usually associated with seamounts. Knowledge of the Protea Seamount ecosystem is extremely important with respect to (1) informing on appropriate conservation management measures (e.g. protected areas or spatial zoning), especially in light of proposed Ferro-manganese mining, and increase fishing pressure in our national waters, and (2) for testing of ecological, evolutionary and biogeographical theories pertaining to seamounts and their importance. Although there has been a previous scientific expedition to Protea Seamount (in 2001), it was focused on deep-sea pelagic birds. There are no records of fish or other taxa such as benthic invertebrates for Protea Seamount.

 

Location

(Indicate the geographic location of the area/feature. This should include a location map. It should state if the area is within or outside national jurisdiction, or straddling both.)

The Protea Seamount focus area occurs within the national jurisdiction of South Africa, and is found off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf, which is an oceanic plateau that extends several hundreds of kilometres south of South Africa, in the south Atlantic abyss (S 36° 50' 0'' E 18° 5' 0'').

 

Feature description of the proposed area

(This should include information about the characteristics of the feature to be proposed, e.g. in terms of physical description (water column feature, benthic feature, or both), biological communities, role in ecosystem function, and then refer to the data/information that is available to support the proposal and whether models are available in the absence of data. This needs to be supported where possible with maps, models, reference to analysis, or the level of research in the area)

Protea Seamount is important for both benthic and pelagic features. Although no information is available on local biodiversity and present communities, it is presumed that the seamount supports important biodiversity and, in particular, serves as an important foraging ground for migratory species because of the enhanced productivity that is generally associated with seamount features. Only one research cruise to the area has taken place (in 2001 focussing on seabirds), with no current or proposed research underway in the area.

 

Feature condition and future outlook of the proposed area

(Description of the current condition of the area – is this static, declining, improving, what are the particular vulnerabilities? Any planned research/programmes/investigations?)

Sink et al., (2012) estimated the threat status of the 60 offshore benthic habitat types identified for South Africa by assessing the cumulative impacts of various pressures (e.g. extractive resource use, pollution and others) on each habitat type. One of the three types of benthic habitat that are most prominent in the focus area, namely Protea Seamount, has been shown to be Critically Endangered in terms of threat status (Sink et al., 2012), indicating that very few (< 20%) of remaining area of this habitat (in the associated bioregion) is in good (natural or pristine) condition. The area is therefore highly vulnerable to exploitation due to its unprotected status. However, the focus area is one of the few areas where the above threatened habitat types are in a good condition, largely because it has been subjected to relatively little extractive resource use (e.g. fishing, mining) pressure, and is relatively remote and often subjected to high seas with winds of around 50 knots.

 

Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA Criteria

(Discuss the area in relation to each of the CBD criteria and relate the best available science. Note that a proposed area for EBSA description may qualify on the basis of one or more of the criteria, and that the polygons of the EBSA need not be defined with exact precision. And modeling may be used to estimate the presence of EBSA attributes. Please note where there are significant information gaps)

CBD EBSA Criteria

(Annex I to decision IX/20)

Description

(Annex I to decision IX/20)

Ranking of criterion relevance

(please mark one column with an X)

Uniqueness or rarity

Area contains either (i) unique (“the only one of its kind”), rare (occurs only in few locations) or endemic species, populations or communities, and/or (ii) unique, rare or distinct, habitats or ecosystems; and/or (iii) unique or unusual geomorphological or oceanographic features.

No Info

Medium/High

 

Explanation for ranking

No information is available to assess uniqueness or rarity.

 

Special importance for life-history stages of species

Areas that is required for a population to survive and thrive.

No Info

 

Explanation for ranking

There is no evidence to suggest that the focus area is of special importance for life history stages of any particular species/population, but no evidence exists to conclude otherwise.

 

Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats

Area containing habitat for the survival and recovery of endangered, threatened, declining species or area with significant assemblages of such species.

No Info

Medium/High

 

Explanation for ranking

One of the three types of benthic habitat that are most prominent in the focus area, namely Protea Seamount, has been shown to be Critically Endangered in terms of threat status (Sink et al., 2012), indicating that very few (< 20%) of remaining area of this habitat is in good (natural or pristine) condition. It is also a site where critically endangered leatherback turtles have been recorded based on satellite tracking data.

 

Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery

Areas that contain a relatively high proportion of sensitive habitats, biotopes or species that are functionally fragile (highly susceptible to degradation or depletion by human activity or by natural events) or with slow recovery.

High

 

Explanation for ranking

Seamounts are considered Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

 

Biological productivity

Area containing species, populations or communities with comparatively higher natural biological productivity.

No Info

Medium/High

 

Explanation for ranking

Seamounts are considered to be relatively productive. No data are available. 

Biological diversity

Area contains comparatively higher diversity of ecosystems, habitats, communities, or species, or has higher genetic diversity.

No Info

Explanation for ranking

No data available

Naturalness

Area with a comparatively higher degree of naturalness as a result of the lack of or low level of human-induced disturbance or degradation.

No Info

Medium/High

Explanation for ranking

The focus area is one of the few areas where the above threatened habitat types are in a good condition, largely because it has been subjected to relatively low levels of anthropogenic pressures.

 

References

Sink K, Holness S, Harris L, Majiedt P, Atkinson L, Robinson T, Kirkman S, Hutchings L, Leslie R, Lamberth S, Kerwath S, von der Heyden S, Lombard A, Attwood C, Branch G, Fairweather T, Taljaard S, Weerts S, Cowley P, Awad A, Halpern B, Grantham H, Wolf T. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 4: Marine and Coastal Component. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

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