Demersal Fish Assemblages and Spatial Diversity Patterns in the Arctic-Atlantic Transition Zone in the Barents Sea
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Direct and indirect effects of global warming are expected to be pronounced and fast in the Arctic, impacting terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. The Barents Sea is a high latitude shelf Sea and a boundary area between arctic and boreal faunas. These faunas are likely to respond differently to changes in climate. In addition, the Barents Sea is highly impacted by fisheries and other human activities. This strong human presence places great demands on scientific investigation and advisory capacity. In order to identify basic community structures against which future climate related or other human induced changes could be evaluated, we analyzed species composition and diversity of demersal fish in the Barents Sea. We found six main assemblages that were separated along depth and temperature gradients. There are indications that climate driven changes have already taken place, since boreal species were found in large parts of the Barents Sea shelf, including also the northern Arctic area. When modelling diversity as a function of depth and temperature, we found that two of the assemblages in the eastern Barents Sea showed lower diversity than expected from their depth and temperature. This is probably caused by low habitat complexity and the distance to the pool of boreal species in the western Barents Sea. In contrast coastal assemblages in south western Barents Sea and along Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Eastern Barents Sea can be described as diversity ‘‘hotspots’’; the South-western area had high density of species, abundance and biomass, and here some species have their northern distribution limit, whereas the Novaya Zemlya area has unique fauna of Arctic, coastal demersal fish. (see Information S1 for abstract in Russian).