Polar Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 12, pp 1889–1910 | Cite as

Nearshore subtidal community structure compared between inner coast and outer coast sites in Southeast Alaska

  • Jodi L. PirtleEmail author
  • Sonia N. Ibarra
  • Ginny L. Eckert
Original Paper


Processes that structure subarctic marine communities, particularly in glaciated regions, are not well understood. This understanding is needed as a baseline and to manage these communities in the face of future climate-driven changes. This study investigates two coastal regions of Southeast Alaska with the goals to (a) identify and compare patterns of subtidal community structure for macroalgal, fish, macroinvertebrate (>5 cm), and small epibenthic invertebrate (<5 cm) communities between inner coast and outer coast sites and (b) link patterns of community structure to habitat and environmental parameters. Species assemblage and benthic habitat data were used to compare species diversity and community composition at 6 m and 12 m depths at nine inner coast and nine outer coast sites. Multivariate analysis was applied to reduce environmental variables to major gradients, to resolve community structure, and to relate community structure to habitat and environmental variables. Increased salinity and decreased temperature at outer coast sites compared with inner coast sites were associated with community structure, with greater species diversity at outer coast sites at 6 m depth. Invertebrate community composition was associated with benthic habitat, including crust and coralline algae for macroinvertebrates, and algal cover and substrate for small epibenthic invertebrates. This research suggests that marine communities in glaciated regions are strongly influenced by freshwater input and that future climate-driven changes in freshwater input will likely result in marine community composition changes.


Community structure Benthic habitat Environmental variability North Pacific Subarctic 



We thank the following individuals who assisted with diving and field research: B. Bechtol, J. Granneman, S. Tamone, and especially D. Okamoto. D. Gordon, E. Coonradt, M. Preston, C. Brylinsky and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Sitka provided logistical support and an introduction to Sitka Sound. T. Quinn, J. Reynolds, B. Tissot, D. Woodby, and anonymous reviewers provided input and critical reviews of the manuscript. This project was funded by the American Association of Underwater Sciences Kathy Johnston Scholarship and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors Project AWARE Foundation, and supported by the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at the University of Alaska Southeast (NSF grant #0553000).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jodi L. Pirtle
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sonia N. Ibarra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ginny L. Eckert
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Juneau CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksJuneauUSA
  2. 2.Biology ProgramUniversity of Alaska SoutheastJuneauUSA
  3. 3.Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, NOAA/UNH Joint Hydrographic CenterUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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