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AB 7:269-293 (2009)  -  DOI:

Community structure of epibenthic megafauna in the Chukchi Sea

B. A. Bluhm1,*, K. Iken1, S. Mincks Hardy1, B. I. Sirenko2, B. A. Holladay1

1School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, 905 Koyukuk Dr., University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA
2Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Universitetskaja nab. 1, St. Petersburg, 199034 Russia

ABSTRACT: Climate change and increased focus on resource development in Arctic Seas have fueled interest in the Chukchi Sea, yet few quantitative studies have been conducted on the larger, epifaunal component of seafloor communities, which serves important roles in sediment biogeochemical processes and provides a food source for fishes and marine mammals. Here we provide quantitative data on the present condition of benthic epifaunal abundance and biomass from the Chukchi shelf and examine the influence of environmental variables on epifaunal communities. We collected 45 beam trawl samples in the Russian and United States sectors of the Chukchi Sea in 2004, 2007 and 2008. Gross abundance estimates ranged from 229 to 70879 ind. 1000 m–2, and gross biomass estimates ranged from 1628 to 217023 g wet wt 1000 m–2. Overall, abundance and biomass were dominated by echinoderms (66 and 45%, respectively) and crustaceans (17 and 31%, respectively). The ophiuroid Ophiura sarsi and the snow crab Chionoecetes opilio overwhelmingly dominated abundance and biomass. The holothurian Myriotrochus rinkii also occurred in large numbers, and the urchin Strongylocentrotus pallidus was another major contributor to biomass. A total of 165 taxa (mostly species) were identified; the highest numbers were Mollusca (45) and Crustacea (33). Cluster analysis identified 6 distinct groups plus 6 unique stations with 54 to 88% between-cluster dissimilarity, with separation based largely on substrate type and latitude. Water mass characteristics and indices of food availability appeared less influential in generating the observed composition, abundance and biomass patterns. Comparisons with previous studies suggested an increase in overall epibenthic biomass since 1976, including an increase in the biomass of C. opilio.

KEY WORDS: Benthos · Epifauna · Chukchi Sea · Arctic · Community structure · Benthic–pelagic coupling · Temporal change · Chionoecetes opilio

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Cite this article as: Bluhm BA, Iken K, Mincks Hardy S, Sirenko BI, Holladay BA (2009) Community structure of epibenthic megafauna in the Chukchi Sea. Aquat Biol 7:269-293.

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