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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Infaunal community structure, diversity, and function in Pacific-Arctic shelf sediments: A comparison of meiofaunal- and macrofaunal-sized nematodes

Brittany R. Charrier*, Jeroen Ingels, Seth L. Danielson, Sarah L. Mincks

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ABSTRACT: Meiofauna, and nematodes in particular, perform essential roles in benthic ecosystems and serve as bioindicators of disturbance and environmental change. In the Pacific Arctic—a region experiencing rapid environmental change—this component of the fauna has received little attention, and the role of meiofauna in ecosystem processes is poorly understood. We collected multi-core samples at ten stations in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas in June 2018 and characterized the sedimentary environment. We also assessed meiofauna (63-500 µm) community structure and abundance at higher taxonomic levels and evaluated genus-level nematode composition in meiofaunal (63-500 µm) and macrofaunal (>500 µm) size fractions. Nematodes were classified by feeding type and life-history strategies. Total meiofauna abundance and biomass varied greatly, with 1,449-12,875 ind. 10 cm-2 and 373-2,325 µg dry weight 10 cm-2 for the upper 5 cm of sediment. Estimated production of meiofaunal-sized nematodes was 5-28 g C m-2 y-1. Four distinct communities of meiofaunal-sized nematodes were identified in different sub-regions reflecting food availability and substrate type. The meiofaunal- and macrofaunal-sized nematodes represented two distinct communities. The unique taxonomic composition and large standing stock of the macrofaunal-sized nematodes (22 ± 15% of total nematode biomass) suggest they are critical components of the infauna and merit further research to assess their role in critical ecosystem functions. This study provides the first genus-level characterization of nematodes and some of the first measurements of meiofauna standing stock in the region, contributing important data for assessing ecosystem function in a rapidly changing Arctic.