, Volume 34, Issue 7, pp 995-1009
Date: 12 Feb 2011

Effects of UV radiation on the structure of Arctic macrobenthic communities

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At present, information on the effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on structure and diversity of polar, in particular Arctic, benthic communities is scarce. It is unclear whether and to what extent communities of different successional age are susceptible to UVR and whether UVR effects known to be detrimental at the species level can be buffered at the community level. In a subtidal field study on Spitsbergen (Norwegian Arctic), we investigated the potential effect of distinct UVR regimes on macrobenthic communities of different successional ages, grown on ceramic tiles. Total taxon cover, taxon composition, evenness, and richness were assessed after experimental exposure of 4 and 8 weeks. Overall, 17 algal and invertebrate taxa were encountered in the study and diatoms dominated the communities regardless of successional age or radiation treatment. UVR effects were dependent on both exposure time and community age. We did not find overall detrimental UVB effects. In contrast, abundance of several species increased in UVR-exposed communities. Especially, UVA seemed to have a beneficial effect in that several green and brown algal taxa increased in abundance (e.g. Ulothrix flacca, Chlorophyta, and Desmarestia sp., Phaeophyceae). In general, UVR effects depended on species composition and thus on successional age of communities, with later successional communities likely to be able to buffer and alleviate possible negative effects of UVR at species level. Overall, the presented study provides a first insight into the complex role UVR plays in structuring Arctic epibenthic communities.