Eight species that rule today’s European Arctic fjord benthos

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Abstract

: The eight most abundant species (mean density >20 ind. m−2), which occurred at high frequencies (mean >30%) were selected from grab samples in the three Svalbard fjords: Hornsund, van Mijenfjord, and Kongsfjord, in the summer seasons between 1997 and 2007. Six polychaete and two bivalve species comprised more than 47% of the individ− uals and the biomass in all the samples examined. Four species are cosmopolitan, while the others are widely distributed Arctic−boreal species, and none has Arctic origin. Their den− sity, frequency of occurrence, and biology are very similar across the wide geographical range from boreal to Arctic conditions. As the diversity of benthic fauna in the fjords stud− ied increases (from 172 to 238 species), the dominance of the eight species in the soft bot− tom community diminishes from 76% to 47%. In times of hydrological regime shift, i.e., the warming of the European Arctic, it is unlikely that the abundancy of these species in the soft bottom fjordic ecosystems will change. The most common soft bottom species are not good indicators of environmental change in the Arctic, and rare, specialized species are better op− tion for indicative purposes.

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