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Lack of strong seasonality in macrobenthic communities from the northern Barents Sea shelf and Nansen Basin
Jordà-Molina, È.; Sen, A.; Bluhm, B.A.; Renaud, P.E.; Wlodarska-Kowalczuk, M.; Legezynska, J.; Oleszczuk, B.; Reiss, H. (2023). Lack of strong seasonality in macrobenthic communities from the northern Barents Sea shelf and Nansen Basin. Prog. Oceanogr. 219: 103150.
In: Progress in Oceanography. Pergamon: Oxford,New York,. ISSN 0079-6611; e-ISSN 1873-4472, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Benthic community dynamics; Phenology; Arctic; Functional traits; Taxonomic structure; Continental Shelf

Authors  Top 
  • Jordà-Molina, È.
  • Sen, A.
  • Bluhm, B.A.
  • Renaud, P.E., more
  • Wlodarska-Kowalczuk, M., more
  • Legezynska, J.
  • Oleszczuk, B.
  • Reiss, H.

    The Barents Sea has been coined ‘the Arctic hotspot’ of climate change due to the rapidity with which environmental changes are taking place. This transitional domain from Atlantic to Arctic waters is home to highly productive benthic communities. This system strongly fluctuates on a seasonal basis in its sympagic-pelagic-benthic coupling interactions, with potential effects on benthic standing stocks and production. Recent discoveries have questioned the marked seasonality for several high Arctic seafloor communities in coastal waters of Svalbard. Still, the seasonal variability of benthic process in the extensive Barents Sea open shelf remains poorly understood. Therefore, we studied the seasonality of macrofauna communities along a transect in the northwestern Barents Sea comprising two hydrographic domains (Arctic vs. Atlantic Water, across the Polar Front) and three geomorphological settings (shelf, continental slope and abyssal plain). Overall, we did not find strong signs of seasonal variation in taxonomic community structure and functional diversity. However, we found some weak signs of seasonality when examining each station separately, especially at a station close to the Polar Front, with high seasonal fluctuations in abiotic drivers indicating a stronger pelagic-benthic coupling. The lack of seasonality found both at the shelf stations south and north of the Polar Front could be related to organic matter stored in the sediments, reflected in constant levels of total organic carbon in surface sediment across time for all stations. We did observe, as expected, highly spatially structured environmental regimes and macrofauna communities associated to them from shelf to slope and basin locations. Understanding the underlying spatio-temporal mechanisms by which soft-bottom benthic communities are structured along environmental gradients is necessary to predict future impacts of climate change in this area. Our results indicate that short-term climate driven changes in the phenology of pelagic ecosystem components might not be directly reflected in the Arctic benthic system, as seafloor processes seem to be partially decoupled from those in the overlying water.

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