, Volume 31, Issue 10, pp 1191-1203
Date: 27 May 2008

Natural succession of macroalgal-dominated epibenthic assemblages at different water depths and after transplantation from deep to shallow water on Spitsbergen

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In the current study, we investigated the primary succession of seaweeds over different time periods at different water depths. Furthermore, we followed the succession of field-grown benthic communities of different successional age, developing on ceramic tiles, prior to and after transplantation from 8 to 0.5 m water depth. The transplantation simulated changes associated with the break up of sea-ice cover, e.g. light regime or wave exposure. For this purpose, we transplanted 12 and 21-month old communities, grown at 8 m water depth, together with a set of sterile tiles, onto rafts, floating in 0.5 m water depth. Our results describe for the first time the succession of macroalgal communities in the Arctic and give important insights into the effect of disturbance of differently aged communities. The primary succession at 0.5 m water depth was mainly driven by Bacillariophyta and filamentous green algae like Urospora sp. and Ulothrix implexa. Twelve-month old communities at 8 m water depth are dominated by members of the Ectocarpales (Phaeophyceae), like Pylaiella littoralis, P. varia, and Ectocarpus siliculosus and the green alga U. implexa, whereas the 21-month old community showed a higher cover of the green algal class Ulvophyceae and sessile invertebrates. After transplantation to near surface conditions, species composition of the communities changed, but this effect was differently strong between communities of different age.