Recolonisation of new habitats by meiobenthic organisms in the deep Arctic Ocean: an experimental approach

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Freese, D. , Schewe, I. , Kanzog, C. , Soltwedel, T. and Klages, M. (2012): Recolonisation of new habitats by meiobenthic organisms in the deep Arctic Ocean: an experimental approach , Polar Biology, 35 , pp. 1801-1813 . doi: 10.1007/s00300-012-1223-2
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Commercial exploitation and abrupt changes of the natural conditions may have severe impacts on the Arctic deep-sea ecosystem. The present recolonisation experiment mimicked a situation after a catastrophic disturbance (e.g. by turbidites caused by destabilized continental slopes after methane hydrate decomposition) and investigated if the recolonisation of a deep-sea habitat by meiobenthic organisms is fostered by variations innutrition and/or sediment structure. Two "Sediment Tray Free Vehicles" were deployed for one year in summer 2003 at 2500 m water depth in the Arctic deep-sea in the eastern Fram Strait. The recolonisation trays were filled with different artificial and natural sediment types (glass beads, sand, sediment mixture, pure deep-sea sediment) and were enriched with various types of food (algae, yeast, fish). After one year, meiobenthos abundances and various sediment related environmental parameters were investigated. Foraminifera were generally the most successful group: they dominated all treatments and accounted for about 87% of the total meiobenthos. Colonizing meiobenthos specimens were generally smaller compared to those in the surrounding deep-sea sediment, suggesting an active recolonisation by juveniles. Although experimental treatments with fine-grained, algaeenriched sediment showed abundances closest to natural conditions, the results suggest that food availability was the main determining factor for a successful recolonisation by meiobenthos and the structure of recolonised sediments was shown to have a subordinate influence.

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