Meiobenthic stocks and benthic activity on the NE-Svalbard shelf and in the Nansen Basin

Research paper by Olaf Pfannkuche, Hjalmar Thiel

Indexed on: 01 Aug '87Published on: 01 Aug '87Published in: Polar Biology


High Arctic meiofaunal distribution, standing stock, sediment chemistry and benthic respiratory activity (determined by sediment oxygen consumption using a shipboard technique) were studied in summer 1980 on the NE Svalbard shelf (northern Barents Sea) and along a transect into the Nansen Basin, over a depth range of 240–3920 m. Particulate sediment proteins, carbohydrates and adenylates were measured as additional measures of benthic biomass. To estimate the sedimentation potential of primary organic matter, sediment bound chloroplastic pigments (chlorophylls, pheopigments) were assayed. Pigment concentrations were found comparable to values in sediments from the boreal and temperate N-Atlantic. Meiofauna, which was abundant on the shelf, decreased in numbers and biomasses with increasing depth, as did sediment proteins, carbohydrates, adenylates and sediment oxygen consumption. Meiofaunal abundances and biomasses within the Nansen Basin were comparable with those observed in abyssal sediments of the North Atlantic. Nematodes clearly dominated in metazoan meiofauna. Protozoans were abundant in shelf sediments. Probably in response to the sedimentation of the plankton bloom, meiofauna abundance and biomass as well as sediment proteins, carbohydrates and adenylates were significantly correlated to the amount of sediment bound chloroplastic pigments, stressing the importance of food quantity to determine benthic stocks. Ninety-four percent of the variance in sediment oxygen consumption were caused by chloroplastic pigments. Benthic respiration, calculated per unit biomass, was 3–10 times lower than in the East Atlantic, suggesting low turnover rates in combination with a high standing stocks for the high Arctic benthos.