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Ecological Drivers of and Responses by Arctic Benthic Communities, with an Emphasis on Kongsfjorden, Svalbard

Part of the Advances in Polar Ecology book series (AVPE,volume 2)

Abstract

Knowledge on the causes and consequences that structure benthic communities is essential to understand and conserve Arctic ecosystems. This review aims to summarize the current knowledge on the effects of abiotic and biotic factors on species interactions and community traits, i.e. diversity, structure, and functioning of Arctic coastal hard- and soft-bottom habitats, with emphasis on Kongsfjorden (Svalbard). Current evidence indicates that descriptive and mensurative studies on the distribution of species prevail and few studies allow inferences on the underlying processes generating observed patterns. Furthermore, Arctic hard- and soft-bottom communities show some fundamental differences in their ecology. The recovery in hard-bottom communities from disturbance, for instance, takes exceptionally long (i.e. > decadal) due to slow growth and/or sporadic recruitment, while it is considerably shorter in soft-bottom communities. Also, Arctic hard-bottom communities display strong competitive hierarchies that appear negligible in communities populating sedimentary shores. This review concludes with a suggestion to shift the focus in Arctic benthos research from pattern to processes and the identification of major research gaps. These include (i) the apparent demarcation of studies being devoted to either rocky or to sedimentary shores, which hamper studies on habitat connectivity, (ii) the lack of studies addressing the effects of pathogens and diseases on community ecology, and (iii) the incomplete assessment of potentially significant drivers of community ecology, such as trophic interactions, recruitment success, and competition.

Keywords

  • Arctic ecosystems
  • Biotic interactions
  • Climate change
  • Disturbance
  • Polar biota
  • Rocky habitats
  • Sedimentary habitats
  • Succession

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Tobias Dolch who kindly supplied maps displayed in Fig. 11.1. We thank one anonymous reviewer, H.M. Feder, and H. Hop for their constructive comments, which greatly improved the quality of this review. MWK was supported by the Polish-Norwegian Research Programme operated by the National Centre for Research and Development under the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2009–2014 in the frame of Project Contract No Pol-Nor/201992/93/2014 (DWARF) and by the National Science Centre grant based on a decision No DEC-2012/05/B/NZ8/02654 (BIOSIZE).

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Molis, M., Beuchel, F., Laudien, J., Włodarska-Kowalczuk, M., Buschbaum, C. (2019). Ecological Drivers of and Responses by Arctic Benthic Communities, with an Emphasis on Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. In: Hop, H., Wiencke, C. (eds) The Ecosystem of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. Advances in Polar Ecology, vol 2. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46425-1_11

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