What is lurking in Svalbard’s waters?

Researchers looked at marine biodiversity in Arctic waters near Svalbard, in particular the marine ecosystems in the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait region. In the lower benthic layers of the waters, there are greater biodiversity of e.g. zooplankton and fish species. There is a mix of warmer and saltier Atlantic water and colder Arctic waters in the region.

They investigated bryozoans, a type of invertebrate that are attached to other organisms such as brown seaweed, to find out which environmental factors affect their structure, distribution and overall biomass in the region. They sampled at stations in the Grønfjorden area along the southwestern coast of West Spitsbergen. There are greater levels of sediment in the larger freshwater or glacial river mouths.

Figure 2. Environmental conditions at sampling stations in Grønfjorden: (a)—temperature, (b)—salinity, (c)—depth, (d)—substrates. Evseeva at al (2023) Available online at: https://www.mdpi.com/2093676

The most diverse were Cheilostomatida with 46 species and the least were Bryocryptellidae, Bugulidae, and Candidae across 4 species. They found at least one species that had not been previously reported in the region which they believe is due to global warming affecting Atlantic circulation including stronger winds, and larval drift.

They noticed that areas with sea kelp had greater abundance even in water turbulent areas that distribute gravel and pebbles. Overall higher volumes were recorded at stations in colder water with macrophytes.

Evseeva O Yu and Dvoretsky A G 2023 Shallow-Water Bryozoan Communities in a Glacier Fjord of West Svalbard, Norway: Species Composition and Effects of Environmental Factors Biology 12 185 Online: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/biology12020185

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