CR 18:127-132 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/cr018127

Impact of climate warming on Arctic benthic biodiversity: a case study of two Arctic glacial bays

Maria Wlodarska-Kowalczuk*, Jan M. Weslawski

Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstanców Warszawy 55, Sopot 81-712, Poland

ABSTRACT: The retreat of Arctic glaciers and a resultant increase in inorganic sedimentation is one of the predicted consequences of global warming. In order to evaluate possible effects of these processes on arctic benthic biodiversity, the fauna of 2 glacial bays, which may be treated as representing the expected phases of the global warming scenario, have been studied. Based on surface water temperature, type of glacier and resulting inorganic sedimentation rates, ŒTikhaia Bay¹ off Franz Josef Land was chosen to represent an Arctic bay before warming and ŒSkoddebukta¹, off west Spitsbergen, to represent a similar bay already affected by the predicted climate changes. Macrofauna was collected at 35 stations in Skoddebukta and 44 stations in Tikhaia Bay. Different methods of measuring faunal diversity (number of species, Shannon diversity index, k-dominance plots) were applied to data sets representing the similar habitats sampled in both bays; these showed the fauna of Tikhaia Bay to be more diverse than that in Skoddebukta. This finding is explained by the lower level of disturbance due to inorganic sedimentation and by better trophic conditions in the former location, both of which are linked to the level of glacial activity. This case study leads to the conclusion that one of the consequences of climate warming for Arctic ecosystems will be a decline of benthic biodiversity due to an increase in mineral sedimentation from meltwaters.

KEY WORDS: Biodiversity · Arctic · Macrozoobenthos

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