Multidecadal stability of benthic community structure in a high-Arctic glacial fjord (van Mijenfjord, Spitsbergen)
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- Renaud, P.E., Włodarska-Kowalczuk, M., Trannum, H. et al. Polar Biol (2007) 30: 295. doi:10.1007/s00300-006-0183-9
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Long-term change in benthic community structure may have significant impact on ecosystem functions. Accelerating climate change and increased human activity in the Arctic suggest that benthic communities in this region may be expected to exhibit change over time scales coinciding with these potential stressors. In 2000 and 2001, we resampled the soft-sediment communities of van Mijenfjord, a semi-closed (silled) fjord system on the west coast of Spitsbergen, following initial surveys in 1980. Multivariate community analyses and biodiversity indices identified distinct regions within the fjord. The communities characteristic of two regions were very similar to those sampled 20 years earlier. Regions corresponded with fjord basins and to community patterns and diversity gradients identified for many other Arctic fjords. Benthic communities in open (unsilled) fjords in the area have recently been shown to respond to decadal scale climatic fluctuation. We suggest that semi-closed fjords may be less susceptible to this type of environmental variability, and that communities are shaped by an interaction of impacts from local topography, glacial runoff, local circulation patterns, and faunal life-history traits. Open and closed fjords may respond to climatic warming trends in different ways, resulting in a subsequent divergence in spatial patterns of resident communities.