The direct effects of marine habitat disturbance by commercial fishing have been well documented. However, the potential ramifications to the ecological function of seafloor communities and ecosystems have yet to be considered. Soft-sediment organisms create much of their habitat's structure and also have crucial roles in many population, community, and ecosystem processes. Many of these roles are filled by species that are sensitive to habitat disturbance. Functional extinction refers to the situation in which species become so rare that they do not fulfill the ecosystem roles that have evolved in the system. This loss to the ecosystem occurs when there are restrictions in the size, density, and distribution of organisms that threaten the biodiversity, resilience, or provision of ecosystem services. Once the functionally important components of an ecosystem are missing, it is extremely difficult to identify and understand ecological thresholds. The extent and intensity of human disturbance to oceanic ecosystems is a significant threat to both structural and functional biodiversity and in many cases this has virtually eliminated natural systems that might serve as baselines to evaluate these impacts.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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