Impact of iceberg scouring on macrobenthic communities in the high-Antarctic Weddell Sea

dgerdes [ at ]


UW-video guided multibox corer sampling in and outside iceberg scours provided quantitative macrozoobenthos samples for analyses of effects of grounding icebergs on infaunal benthic communities. These studies were performed on the southeastern Weddell Sea shelf off Kapp Norvegia and Austasen. Based on the UW-video sequences, stations were grouped a priori into two different disturbance categories and into undisturbed areas.Average biomass of major taxa in the cores of undisturbed areas was significantly higher (14,716.5 g wet weight m-2) than in old (405.3 g w. wt. m-2) or in young scour marks (9.2 g w. wt. m-2). The habitat taxon richness, too, was highest in undisturbed areas (on average, 11.8 taxonomic units occurred per core), decreased in old scour marks (9.0) and was lowest in young scours (6.8). In undisturbed areas, a higher developed communitystructure was reflected by a greater variety of taxonomic groups, some of which were principally absent in scours.In young scours, the number of taxa was significantly reduced. Motile forms such as echinoderms and crustaceans, mainly amphipods, and juvenile polychaetes, inparticular pioneering species of the family Spionidae, started the recolonization of the devastated areas. Burrowing organisms occurred in older scours where the initially overcompacted sediment had softened. In the course of the re-establishment of macrofaunal communities (after some years/decades), the faunal compositionis expected to change towards a normal dominance of suspension-feeding organisms, mainly sponges and bryozoans, being typical for wide areas on the southeasternWeddell Sea shelf.A more detailed taxonomical approach, using 167 polychaete species as representatives of the macrozoobenthos, also revealed significant differences between undisturbed and affected areas. The mean abundances (784, 389, and 242 ind. m-2, respectively), as well as habitat species richness (11.6, 5.5, and 3.1, respectively), decreased from undisturbed areas to old to young iceberg scours. Similarly, a large variety of motile and sessile forms was encountered among the polychaetes at undisturbed sites, whereas in scours, the polychaete fauna was impoverished in terms of species richness, abundance and variety of feeding types and lifestyles.

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DOI 10.1007/s00300-003-0484-1

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Gerdes, D. , Hilbig, B. and Montiel, A. (2003): Impact of iceberg scouring on macrobenthic communities in the high-Antarctic Weddell Sea , Polar biology, 26 , pp. 295-301 . doi: 10.1007/s00300-003-0484-1

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