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Towards a pan-Arctic inventory of the species diversity of the macro- and megabenthic fauna of the Arctic shelf seas

Abstract

Although knowledge of Arctic seas has increased tremendously in the past decade, benthic diversity was investigated at regional scales only, and no attempt had been made to examine it across the entire Arctic. We present a first pan-Arctic account of the species diversity of the macro- and megabenthic fauna of the Arctic marginal shelf seas. It is based on an analysis of 25 published and unpublished species-level data sets, together encompassing 14 of the 19 marine Arctic shelf ecoregions and comprising a total of 2,636 species, including 847 Arthropoda, 668 Annelida, 392 Mollusca, 228 Echinodermata, and 501 species of other phyla. For the four major phyla, we also analyze the differences in faunal composition and diversity among the ecoregions. Furthermore, we compute gross estimates of the expected species numbers of these phyla on a regional scale. Extrapolated to the entire fauna and study area, we arrive at the conservative estimate that 3,900–4,700 macro- and megabenthic species can be expected to occur on the Arctic shelves. These numbers are smaller than analogous estimates for the Antarctic shelf but the difference is on the order of about two and thus less pronounced than previously assumed. On a global scale, the Arctic shelves are characterized by intermediate macro- and megabenthic species numbers. Our preliminary pan-Arctic inventory provides an urgently needed assessment of current diversity patterns that can be used by future investigations for evaluating the effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities in the Arctic.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all the people who contributed to this study with helping in the field studies, identifying species, as well as providing data and advice. Special thanks go to C. Nozère (Rimouski) who helped in homogenizing the database and matching the scientific names, as well as to Julian Gutt (Bremerhaven), Russ Hopcroft (Fairbanks) and two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved our manuscript.

We also acknowledge the financial support of a wide variety of national and international organizations, which provided funds for the original field research that has generated the data our synthesis is based on: Canadian Museum of Nature, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, ArcticNet, United States National Science Foundation, United States Mineral Management Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Russian Academy of Sciences, Research Council of Norway, Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland, German Research Foundation, German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology. The synthesis effort itself, resulting in this paper, was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

This publication is part of the Census of Marine Life’s Arctic Ocean Diversity project synthesis and was originally presented at the Arctic Frontiers Conference in Tromsø, January 2010. The support and initiative of ARCTOS and Arctic Frontiers are gratefully acknowledged. The paper is also a contribution to the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network.

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Correspondence to Dieter Piepenburg.

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This article belongs to the special issue “Arctic Ocean Diversity Synthesis”

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Piepenburg, D., Archambault, P., Ambrose, W.G. et al. Towards a pan-Arctic inventory of the species diversity of the macro- and megabenthic fauna of the Arctic shelf seas. Mar Biodiv 41, 51–70 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-010-0059-7

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Keywords

  • Arctic
  • Macrobenthos
  • Megabenthos
  • Shelf
  • Pan-Arctic inventory
  • Diversity