Dynamic benthic communities: assessing temporal variations in benthic community structure, megafaunal composition and diversity at the Arctic deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN between 2004 and 2015


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james.taylor [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

Established in the Fram Strait in 1999, the LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) observatory HAUSGARTEN enables us to study changes on the deep Arctic seafloor. Repeated deployments of a towed camera system (Ocean Floor Observation System) along the same tracks allowed us to build a time series longer than a decade (2004 - 2015). Here, we present the first time-series results from a northern and the southernmost station of the observatory (N3 and S3, ~2650m and 2350m depth respectively) obtained via the analysis of still imagery. We assess temporal variability in community structure, megafaunal densities and diversity, and use a range of biotic and abiotic factors to explain the patterns observed. There were significant temporal differences in megafaunal abundances, diversity and abiotic factors at both stations. A particularly high increase in megafaunal abundance was recorded at N3 from 12.08 (±0.39; 2004) individuals m-2 to 35.21 (±0.97; 2007) ind. m-2 alongside a ten-fold increase in (drop-)stones. At S3, megafaunal densities peaked in 2015 (22.74 ±0.61 ind. m-2) after an increasing trend since 2004 (12.44 ±0.32 ind. m-2). Holothurians showed particularly striking temporal differences: densities of the small sea cucumber Elpidia heckeri densities rose ten-fold from 0.31 ind. m-2 (±0.04; 2004) to 3.74 ind. m-2 (±0.14; 2015) at S3, coinciding with a sustained increase in phytodetritial matter (chloroplastic pigment equivalents) at the seafloor. Initially entirely absent from N3, densities of the larger holothurian Kolga hyalina peaked in 2007 (5.87 ±0.22 ind. m-2) and declined continuously since then. Overall diversity (γ) increased at both stations over the course of the study, however, with varying contributions of α and β diversities. Our results highlight the importance of time-series studies as megafaunal community composition is characterised by continuous changes. This indicates that epibenthic communities from the deep seafloor are reactive and dynamic, with no “null” community state. To continue to monitor them is therefore crucial in understanding natural and anthropogenic impacts in an area exposed to the effects of climate change.



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Scopus/ISI peer-reviewed
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Published
Eprint ID
42595
DOI 10.1016/j.dsr.2017.02.008

Cite as
Taylor, J. , Krumpen, T. , Soltwedel, T. , Gutt, J. and Bergmann, M. (2017): Dynamic benthic communities: assessing temporal variations in benthic community structure, megafaunal composition and diversity at the Arctic deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN between 2004 and 2015 , Deep-Sea Research Part I-Oceanographic Research Papers, 122 , pp. 81-94 . doi: 10.1016/j.dsr.2017.02.008


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