Climate warming influences structure and function of Arctic benthic ecosystems. Assessing the response of these systems to perturbations requires long-term studies addressing key ecological processes related to recolonization and succession of species. Based on unique time-series (1980–2017), this study addresses successional patterns of hard-bottom benthos in two fjords in NW Svalbard after a pulse perturbation in 1980 and during a period of rapid climate warming. Analysis of seafloor photographs revealed different return rates of taxa, and variability in species densities, through time. It took 13 and 24 years for the community compositions of cleared and control transects to converge in the two fjords. Nearly two decades after the study initiation, an increase in filamentous and foliose macroalgae was observed with a subsequent reorganization in the invertebrate community. Trait analyses showed a decrease in body size and longevity of taxa in response to the pulse perturbation and a shift towards small/medium size and intermediate longevity following the macroalgae takeover. The observed slow recovery rates and abrupt shifts in community structure document the vulnerability of Arctic coastal ecosystems to perturbations and continued effects of climate warming. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The changing Arctic Ocean: consequences for biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystem functioning’.
|Number of pages
|Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
|Published - 2020
|MoE publication type
|A1 Journal article-refereed