Polar Biology

, 34:1783 | Cite as

Oceanographic characteristics of the habitat of benthic fish and invertebrates in the Beaufort Sea

  • Elizabeth Logerwell
  • Kimberly Rand
  • Thomas J. Weingartner
Original Paper


We relate the spatial variability in the distribution of benthic taxa of the Beaufort Sea to oceanographic characteristics of their habitat with the goal of illustrating potential mechanisms linking climate change to Arctic marine communities. Offshore fish of the Beaufort Sea have not been surveyed since 1977 and no synchronous measures of fish distribution and the oceanographic characteristics of their habitat have been made previously. A survey was conducted during August 2008 in the western Beaufort Sea, Alaska. The distribution and abundance of benthic fish and invertebrates were assessed with standard bottom trawl survey methods. Oceanographic data were collected at each trawl station and at several locations between stations. The dominant benthic taxa, Polar cod (Boreogadus saida), eelpouts (Lycodes sp.), and snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) were associated with cold (<−1.5°C), high salinity (>33) water found offshore of the shelf break, derived from the Chukchi Sea. These waters are expected to be high in secondary productivity, such that we hypothesize that the distribution of fish and crab was driven by conditions favorable for successful foraging. Predictions of the impacts of climate change require an understanding of the mechanisms linking the distribution and abundance of marine organisms to their oceanographic habitat. Our study documents the association of dominant benthic fish and invertebrates of the Beaufort Sea with specific water mass types and is thus a step toward this understanding.


Beaufort Sea Polar cod Eelpout Snow crab Oceanography 



Funding for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), Alaska Region (Interagency Agreement M07PG13152 and AKC-058). We would like to thank the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s (AFSC) Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division (RACE) for providing survey gear, support, and expertise. We would like to especially thank Héloïse Chenelot of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for providing species identification on the invertebrates and Erika Acuna (RACE) for providing expertise on fish species identification in the field. James Orr and Duane Stevenson (RACE) provided taxonomic verification and identification of all fish species. Thanks to Sandra Parker-Stetter and Jennifer Nomura who were part of the scientific crew. We would like to thank the captain and crew of the F/V Ocean Explorer (Captain Darin Vanderpol and Raphael Guiterrez, Tom Giacalone, Joao DoMar, Ben Boyok, and Jessica Heaven) for a productive and safe research cruise. Finally, we thank the reviewers for their time and constructive input. The findings and conclusions in the paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Logerwell
    • 1
  • Kimberly Rand
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Weingartner
    • 2
  1. 1.Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSeattleUSA
  2. 2.School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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