Continental shelf is a highly dynamic system controlled by water mass interactions, biogeochemical processes, and biological production of organic matter. Climatic and hydrological processes originate large variability in many scales of time and space that are responsible for its typical unsteady status, mainly at shallower depths. The southeastern Brazilian continental shelf is an important economic area that houses the commercial Port of Santos, the Petrobras oil terminal in São Sebastião, and fishery activities. This concise chapter explores the relationships of the benthic community structure facing a complex physical environment allied to human influences. It is built on previous studies developed in the southeast Brazilian continental shelf from the past 25 years. The shelf benthic system is governed by seasonal pulses of primary production promoted by the South Atlantic Central Water bottom intrusion and coastal upwelling allied to the passage of winter cold fronts. Self-structuring benthic community is achieved by the mobility of the organisms, feeding activity, and biogenic transformation of the habitat due to bioturbation.
Part of the book: Advances in the Studies of the Benthic Zone