Steinahóll  hydrothermal vent fauna © Marine and Freshwater Research Institute

Mid-ocean ridges are among the largest continuous marine habitats known, with an area comparable to or larger to the relatively well-studied continental shelf and slope habitats. Ridge community ecology and biodiversity are relatively poorly understood, with the exception of chemosynthetic ecosystems such as hydrothermal vents. Our understanding of the effects of ridges on the composition and distribution of pelagic and benthic fauna, including commercially important taxa, is limited. Ridge communities are of considerable scientific and commercial interest as they may express endemism (e.g. hydrothermal vent communities) and may also significantly influence the processes affecting the slope and shelf biota such as intercontinental migration and dispersion.

Coral and sponge gardens are associated with V-shaped ridges along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and can be found on both sides of the Reykjanes Ridge. These two ecosystems are affected by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) causing ice flow from Greenland to the west of the ridge. Dropstones from icebergs create ample hard substrate west of the ridge while the eastern ridge is dominated by soft sediments. In addition, relative changes in AMOC associated with North Atlantic subpolar gyre dynamics can affect coral occurrence and growth (Douarin et al. 2013). There may also be hydrothermal vent sites on the Ridge south of Iceland. The abundance of vent sites on the Ridge is currently unknown. The role of vent communities as primary producers on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is also unknown.

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