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Benthic communities of the Filchner Region (Weddell Sea, Antarctica)

Santiago E. A. Pineda-Metz*, Enrique Isla, Dieter Gerdes

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Due to extreme pack-ice the Filchner Region in the southern Weddell Sea is one of the least studied regions on the planet. Here, we report the results on benthic communities of this high-Antarctic ecosystem and assess the relationship between environmental factors and benthic distribution patterns. We used a combination of multibox corer (MBC) and seabed image data, from which we differentiate six station groups. While one of these groups was comprised of a single station, the other five groups represented distinct benthic communities. Three of these correspond to the previously described Eastern Shelf, Southern Shelf, and Southern Trench communities. However, we found distribution shifts and MBC abundance and biomass reductions, when comparing our results with earlier studies. The other two groups with novel characteristics are presented here as an Ice/Ice Shelf Water related community and a Continental slope community. Water depth in combination with two or three other environmental variables (out of 7 available) explained <30% of the benthic distribution and composition. We found a tighter relation between water mass circulation and spatial distribution of the communities; we suggest water-mass related characteristics (e.g. productivity regimes, water currents) to better explain benthic spatial distribution patterns.