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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 522:15-32 (2015)  -  DOI:

Community structure of under-ice fauna in the Eurasian central Arctic Ocean in relation to environmental properties of sea-ice habitats

Carmen David1,2,*, Benjamin Lange1,2, Benjamin Rabe1, Hauke Flores1,2

1Alfred Wegener Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
2University Hamburg, Centre for Natural History (CeNak), Zoological Museum, Biocenter Grindel, Martin-Luther-King Platz 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Arctic sea-ice decline is expected to have a significant impact on Arctic marine ecosystems. Ice-associated fauna play a key role in this context because they constitute a unique part of Arctic biodiversity and transmit carbon from sea-ice algae into pelagic and benthic food webs. Our study presents the first regional-scale record of under-ice faunal distribution and the environmental characteristics of under-ice habitats throughout the Eurasian Basin. Sampling was conducted with a Surface and Under-Ice Trawl, equipped with a sensor array recording ice thickness and other physical parameters during trawling. We identified 2 environmental regimes, broadly coherent with the Nansen and Amundsen Basins. The Nansen Basin regime was distinguished from the Amundsen Basin regime by heavier sea-ice conditions, higher surface salinities and higher nitrate + nitrite concentrations. We found a diverse (28 species) under-ice community throughout the Eurasian Basin. Change in community structure reflected differences in the relative contribution of abundant species. Copepods (Calanus hyperboreus and C. glacialis) dominated in the Nansen Basin regime. In the Amundsen Basin regime, amphipods (Apherusa glacialis, Themisto libellula) dominated. Polar cod Boreogadus saida was present throughout the sampling area. Abrupt changes from a dominance of ice-associated amphipods at ice-covered stations to a dominance of pelagic amphipods (T. libellula) at nearby ice-free stations emphasised the decisive influence of sea ice on small-scale patterns in the surface-layer community. The observed response in community composition to different environmental regimes indicates potential long-term alterations in Arctic marine ecosystems as the Arctic Ocean continues to change.

KEY WORDS: Arctic · Under-ice habitats · Calanus · Ice-associated amphipods · Polar cod ·Boreogadus saida · Apherusa glacialis

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Cite this article as: David C, Lange B, Rabe B, Flores H (2015) Community structure of under-ice fauna in the Eurasian central Arctic Ocean in relation to environmental properties of sea-ice habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 522:15-32.

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