Do bioturbation and consumption affect coastal Arctic marine soft-bottom communities?
Biotic factors such as bioturbation and predation affect abundance and species composition of marine soft-bottom communities from tropical to temperate regions, but their impact has been rarely investigated in Arctic coastal systems. By conducting a factorial manipulative field experiment, we excluded the bioturbating lugworm Arenicola marina and predacious consumers from a sedimentary nearshore area in Kongsfjorden (Spitsbergen) for 70 days to explore their role in structuring the benthic community. The removal of A. marina caused an increase in average species number by 25 %, a doubling increase in the average number of individuals and an increase in dry mass of benthic organisms by, on average, 73 % in comparison with untreated areas. Additionally, community composition was significantly modified by lugworm exclusion resulting in higher average densities of the cumacean Lamprops fuscatus (4.2-fold), the polychaete worms Euchone analis (3.7-fold) and Pygospio cf. elegans (1.5-fold), the bivalve Crenella decussata (2.8-fold) and the amphipod Crassicorophium crassicorne (1.2-fold), which primarily contribute to the observed differences. Consumer exclusion, by contrast, showed no effects on the response variables. This result was independent from bioturbation due to missing interaction between both biotic factors. We conclude that present levels of bioturbation may considerably affect Arctic coastal soft-bottom communities. In contrast, predation by macro-epibenthic consumers currently seems to be of minor importance. This might change in a predicted warmer Arctic with assumed higher predator abundances and a northward expansion of boreal consumers.
KeywordsBioturbation Predation Soft-bottom benthos Arctic shallow water Field experiment
This work was performed at the International Arctic Environmental Research and Monitoring Facility at Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen, Norway. We thank Christian Wiencke for his great support. We are grateful for logistic support by the AWIPEV and the AWI diving group, in particular, Max Schwanitz for indispensable technical consultation and support. Underwater field assistance by Kai Schwalfenberg and Florian Sprung is acknowledged. Comments by D. Lackschewitz, P. Renaud, G. Veit-Köhler, M. Greenacre and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank Lilo Herre for her help in the organization of our expedition.
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