, Volume 30, Issue 8, pp 1035-1046
Date: 21 Mar 2007

Soft bottom species richness and diversity as a function of depth and iceberg scour in Arctic glacial Kongsfjorden (Svalbard)

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Abstract

Macrozoobenthic soft-sediment communities of central Arctic Kongsfjorden inhabiting six depth zones between 5 and 30 m were sampled using SCUBA-diving during June–August 2003 and analysed comparatively. About 63 taxa were found, nine of which had not been reported for Kongsfjorden and four for Svalbard. Suspension feeding or surface and sub-surface detritivorous polychaetes and deposit-feeding amphipods were dominant. Only 11 of the 63 taxa (45 species and additional 18 families not further identified) inhabited the complete depth range. Biomass ranged from 3.5 to 25.0 g ash free dry mass m−2 and mean Shannon diversity (Log e) was 2.06. Similarity clustering from abundance and biomass data showed a significant difference between the shallow station (5 m) and the rest. The latter formed two sub-groups (10–20 and 25–30 m). Depth is irrevocably correlated with ice-scouring. Thus the differences in diversity together with the predicted iceberg scour intensity support the ‘intermediate disturbance hypothesis’ indicating that habitats impacted by moderate iceberg scouring enable higher diversity. In contrast, biotopes frequently affected only host pioneer communities, while mature, less diverse assemblages dominate depths of low impact.