, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 1-11
Date: 29 Jul 2009

Decadal change in macrobenthic soft-bottom community structure in a high Arctic fjord (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard)

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Marine benthic macrofauna communities are considered a good indicator of subtle environmental long-term changes in an ecosystem. In 1997/1998 and 2006, soft-bottom fauna of an Arctic glacial fjord Kongsfjorden was extensively sampled and major communities were identified along the fjord axis, which were related to the diminishing influence of glacial activity. Spatial patterns in community structure and species diversity were significantly different in the central basin of Kongsfjorden between periods while there was no change in the inner part of the fjord. In 1997/98, three faunal associations were distinguished with significant differences in species richness and diversity (H′) while in 2006 only two faunal associations were identified and there were no differences any more between the two formerly distinct associations in the central fjord. The increased input of Atlantic water due to a stronger West Spitsbergen Current may be the reason for unification of previous clear faunal division. The faunal association in the inner, well separated glacial part of the fjord, characterized by strong glacier influence, was protected from Atlantic water inflow and, hence, the macrobenthic fauna essentially remained unaffected. Reduced abundance of species typical for glacial bays in the central part of the fjord in 2006 may result from the decreasing effect of Blomstrandbreen glacier, strong increase of input of Atlantic water into the fjord and increased temperature of West Spitsbergen Current. Higher values of POC in 2006 than in 1998 are likely the effect of increased primary production resulting from warmer water temperatures.