Ecosystem overviews

Azores Ecosystem Overview

State of the ecosystem components: Benthos

​​The Azorean barnacle (Megabalanus azoricus), black sea urchin (Arbacia lixula), stony sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculata), Azorean limpet (Patella aspera), limpet (Patella candei), slipper lobster (Scyllarides latus), and lobster (Palinuros elephas) are the most abundant species in the intertidal as well as in the first few meters of the subtidal (Dionísio et al., 2007). The barnacle, limpets, and lobsters have been heavily exploited in the ecoregion; since 2006 two species are on the OSPAR list of threatened species.

Other dominant species in the littoral are the cnidarians (Caryophyllia spp.) and sponges (Clathrina coriacea, Haliclona fistulosa, and Sycon sp), the violet sea urchin (Sphaerechinus granularis), and the bivalve Pinna rudis. Neto et al. (2005) provides further information on Azorean rocky-shore macroalgae, with around 368 species recorded.

The toothed rock crab (Cancer bellianus) dominates the coastal crab community, with the deep-sea red crab (Chaceon affinis) replacing it in deeper water. Diverse assemblages of crabs and Pandalid shrimps, stratified by depth, are found throughout the ecoregion. These communities of invertebrates have not been commercially exploited.

The ecoregion is considered a cold-water coral hotspot in the Northeast Atlantic, with more than 164 species (Braga‑Henriques et al., 2013) and 20 different types of coral assemblage reported (Tempera et al., 2013, 2014; Braga‑Henriques et al., 2011b; Braga-Henriques, 2014; de Matos et al., 2014a). Most coral species found in the region are broadly distributed worldwide, with only a few apparently restricted to a single geographic origin. Coral habitats support a rich associated fauna (Braga-Henriques et al., 2011a, 2012a; Carreiro-Silva et al., 2011, 2017; Pham et al., 2015), supplying many vital ecosystem services. Deep-sea sponge aggregations are also common in the region and cover extensive areas, particularly below 500 m (Braga-Henriques et al., 2012b; Braga-Henriques, 2014; Tempera et al., 2013; unpublished data from the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation's deep-sea video archives; unpublished data from the EU SponGES project).​​​​

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Azores Ecosystem Overview

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