There is an implicit requirement under contemporary policy drivers to understand the characteristics of
benthic communities under anthropogenically-unimpacted scenarios.We used a trait-based approach on
a large dataset from across the European shelf to determine how functional characteristics of unimpacted
benthic assemblages vary between different sedimentary habitats.
Assemblages in deep, muddy environments unaffected by anthropogenic disturbance show increased
proportions of downward conveyors and surface deposit-feeders, while burrowing, diffusive mixing,
scavenging and predation traits assume greater numerical proportions in shallower habitats. Deep,
coarser sediments are numerically more dominated by sessile, upward conveyors and suspension
feeders. In contrast, unimpacted assemblages of coarse sediments in shallower regions are proportionally
dominated by the diffusive mixers, burrowers, scavengers and predators. Finally, assemblages of gravelly
sediments exhibit a relatively greater numerical dominance of non-bioturbators and asexual reproducers.
These findings may be used to form the basis of ranking habitats along a functional sensitivity