Polar Biology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 155–167 | Cite as

Soft-bottom macrobenthic faunal associations and factors affecting species distributions in an Arctic glacial fjord (Kongsfjord, Spitsbergen)

  • Maria Wlodarska-KowalczukEmail author
  • Thomas H. Pearson
Original Paper


The Kongsfjord (west Spitsbergen) hosts the most active glacier on the island. Therefore the glacial impact on the marine ecosystem is very pronounced and easily recognisable. The study examines the influence of the steep glacier-derived environmental gradients on dominant macrofaunal species distributions and faunal associations in the fjord. The macrobenthic fauna was sampled by van Veen grab at 30 stations situated throughout the fjord (at depths 38–380 m). Two major communities were recognised. An inner basin receives the outflows from three glaciers and is occupied by a Glacial Bay Community dominated by small, surface detritus-feeders, with Chone paucibranchiata and a set of thyasirid and nuculanid bivalves (Thyasira dunbari, Yoldiella solidula, Y. lenticula) as characteristic species. An outer basin of the fjord is characterised by a common set of dominant species, including Heteromastus filiformis, Maldane sarsi, Levinsenia gracilis, Lumbrineris sp. and Leitoscoloplos sp. Three associations may be distinguished within the Outer Basin Community. Association TRANS is of transitional character, with Nuculoma tenuis and Terebellides stroemi. Association CENTR is the most typical for the community. It is dominated by tube-dwelling Prionospio sp., Clymenura polaris, Galathowenia oculata and Spiochaetopterus typicus. Association ENTR contains shelf benthos elements, e.g. Ophiura robusta and Lepeta caeca. An opportunistic eurytopic Chaetozone group is present throughout the fjord and its density and dominance increase with proximity to the glaciers. Dominant species distribution is discussed in relation to environmental factors, of which sediment stability, inorganic particle concentration, sedimentation rate and amount of organic matter in sediments are considered to be most important in structuring the communities.


Bivalve Polychaete Particulate Organic Carbon Characteristic Species Sediment Stability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The study was completed thanks to funds provided by grant 3PO4F04722 from the Polish National Committee for Scientific Research. The Polychaeta identifications were done by Mrs. Slawomira Gromisz, Crustacea identifications were done by Dr. Joanna Legezynska and Dr. Jan Marcin Weslawski and are gratefully acknowledged. We wish to thank Dr. Anders Waren for verification of mollusc identifications, which was done during the first author’s visit to the Swedish Natural History Museum, supported by HIGHLAT project (HPRI-CT-2001-0125 IHP programme). Our particular thanks are addressed to Dr. Jan Marcin Weslawski, Dr. Mike Kendall, Dr. Howard Feder, Dr. Sabine Cochrane and Dr. Salve Dahle for valuable discussions and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Wlodarska-Kowalczuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas H. Pearson
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Oceanology PASSopotPoland
  2. 2.Akvaplan-niva a.s. Polar Environment CentreTromsøNorway
  3. 3.SEASDunstaffnage Marine LaboratoryObanScotland

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