Functional roles and redundancy of demersal Barents Sea fish: Ecological implications of environmental change.
ABSTRACT: When facing environmental change and intensified anthropogenic impact on marine ecosystems, extensive knowledge of how these systems are functioning is required in order to manage them properly. However, in high-latitude ecosystems, where climate change is expected to have substantial ecological impact, the ecosystem functions of biological species have received little attention, partly due to the limited biological knowledge of Arctic species. Functional traits address the ecosystem functions of member species, allowing the functionality of communities to be characterised and the degree of functional redundancy to be assessed. Ecosystems with higher functional redundancy are expected to be less affected by species loss, and therefore less sensitive to disturbance. Here we highlight and compare typical functional characteristics of Arctic and boreal fish in the Barents Sea and address the consequences of a community-wide reorganization driven by climate warming on functional redundancy and characterization. Based on trait and fish community composition data, we assessed functional redundancy of the Barents Sea fish community for the period 2004-2012, a period during which this northern region was characterized by rapidly warming water masses and declining sea ice coverage. We identified six functional groups, with distinct spatial distributions, that collectively provide a functional characterization of Barents Sea fish. The functional groups displayed different prevalence in boreal and Arctic water masses. Some functional groups displayed a spatial expansion towards the northeast during the study period, whereas other groups showed a general decline in functional redundancy. Presently, the observed patterns of functional redundancy would seem to provide sufficient scope for buffering against local loss in functional diversity only for the more speciose functional groups. Furthermore, the observed functional reconfiguration may affect future ecosystem functioning in the area. In a period of rapid environmental change, monitoring programs integrating functional traits will help inform management on ecosystem functioning and vulnerability.
Project description:Climate-driven poleward shifts, leading to changes in species composition and relative abundances, have been recently documented in the Arctic. Among the fastest moving species are boreal generalist fish which are expected to affect arctic marine food web structure and ecosystem functioning substantially. Here, we address structural changes at the food web level induced by poleward shifts via topological network analysis of highly resolved boreal and arctic food webs of the Barents Sea. We detected considerable differences in structural properties and link configuration between the boreal and the arctic food webs, the latter being more modular and less connected. We found that a main characteristic of the boreal fish moving poleward into the arctic region of the Barents Sea is high generalism, a property that increases connectance and reduces modularity in the arctic marine food web. Our results reveal that habitats form natural boundaries for food web modules, and that generalists play an important functional role in coupling pelagic and benthic modules. We posit that these habitat couplers have the potential to promote the transfer of energy and matter between habitats, but also the spread of pertubations, thereby changing arctic marine food web structure considerably with implications for ecosystem dynamics and functioning.
Project description:Under exploitation and environmental change, it is essential to assess the sensitivity and vulnerability of marine ecosystems to such stress. A species' response to stress depends on its life history. Sensitivity to harvesting is related to the life history "fast-slow" continuum, where "slow" species (i.e., large, long lived, and late maturing) are expected to be more sensitive to fishing than "fast" ones. We analyze life history traits variation for all common fish species in the Barents Sea and rank fishes along fast-slow gradients obtained by ordination analyses. In addition, we integrate species' fast-slow ranks with ecosystem survey data for the period 2004-2009, to assess life history variation at the community level in space and time. Arctic fishes were smaller, had shorter life spans, earlier maturation, larger offspring, and lower fecundity than boreal ones. Arctic fishes could thus be considered faster than the boreal species, even when body size was corrected for. Phylogenetically related species possessed similar life histories. Early in the study period, we found a strong spatial gradient, where members of fish assemblages in the southwestern Barents Sea displayed slower life histories than in the northeast. However, in later, warmer years, the gradient weakened caused by a northward movement of boreal species. As a consequence, the northeast experienced increasing proportions of slower fish species. This study is a step toward integrating life history traits in ecosystem-based areal management. On the basis of life history traits, we assess the fish sensitivity to fishing, at the species and community level. We show that climate warming promotes a borealization of fish assemblages in the northeast, associated with slower life histories in that area. The biology of Arctic species is still poorly known, and boreal species that now establish in the Arctic are fishery sensitive, which calls for cautious ecosystem management of these areas.
Project description:As a result of ocean warming, the species composition of the Arctic seas has begun to shift in a boreal direction. One ecosystem prone to fauna shifts is the Northeast Greenland shelf. The dispersal route taken by boreal fauna to this area is, however, not known. This knowledge is essential to predict to what extent boreal biota will colonise Arctic habitats. Using population genetics, we show that Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), beaked redfish (Sebastes mentella), and deep-sea shrimp (Pandalus borealis) recently found on the Northeast Greenland shelf originate from the Barents Sea, and suggest that pelagic offspring were dispersed via advection across the Fram Strait. Our results indicate that boreal invasions of Arctic habitats can be driven by advection, and that the fauna of the Barents Sea can project into adjacent habitats with the potential to colonise putatively isolated Arctic ecosystems such as Northeast Greenland.
Project description: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).
Project description:Trophic niche and diet comparisons among closely sympatric marine species are important to understand complex food webs, particularly in regions most affected by climate change. Using stable isotope analyses, all ontogenetic stages of three sympatric species of Arctic cephalopods (genus Rossia) were studied to assess inter- and intraspecific competition with niche and diet overlap and partitioning in West Greenland and the Barents Sea. Seven traits related to resource and habitat utilization were identified in Rossia: no trait was shared by all three species. High boreal R. megaptera and Arctic endemic R. moelleri shared three traits with each other, while both R. megaptera and R. moelleri shared only two unique traits each with widespread boreal-Arctic R. palpebrosa. Thus all traits formed fully uncrossing pattern with each species having unique strategy of resource and habitat utilization. Predicted climate changes in the Arctic would have an impact on competition among Rossia with one potential 'winner' (R. megaptera in the Barents Sea) but no potential 'losers'.
Project description:The flow of carbon from atmosphere to sediment fauna and sediments reduces atmospheric CO2, which in turn reduces warming. Here, during the Changing Arctic Ocean Seafloor programme, we use comparable methods to those used in the Antarctic (vertical, calibrated camera drops and trawl-collected specimens) to calculate the standing stock of zoobenthic carbon throughout the Barents Sea. The highest numbers of morphotypes, functional groups and individuals were found in the northernmost sites (80-81.3°?N, 29-30°?E). Ordination (non-metric multidimensional scaling) suggested a cline of faunal transition from south to north. The functional group dominance differed across all six sites, despite all being apparently similar muds. Of the environmental variables we measured, only water current speed could significantly explain any of our spatial carbon differences. We found no obvious relationship with sea ice loss and thus no evidence of Arctic blue carbon-climate feedback. Blue carbon in the Barents Sea can be comparable with the highest levels in Antarctic shelf sediments. This article is part of the theme issue 'The changing Arctic Ocean: consequences for biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystem functioning'.
Project description:Climate warming is rapidly altering marine ecosystems towards a more temperate state on the European side of the Arctic. However, this "Atlantification" has rarely been confirmed, as long-term datasets on Arctic marine organisms are scarce. We present a 19-year time series (1982-2016) of diet samples from black-legged kittiwakes as an indicator of the changes in a high Arctic marine ecosystem (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard). Our results highlight a shift from Arctic prey dominance until 2006 to a more mixed diet with high contribution of Atlantic fishes. Capelin, an Atlantic species, dominated the diet composition in 2007, marking a shift in the food web. The occurrence of polar cod, a key Arctic fish species, positively correlated with sea ice index, whereas Atlantic species demonstrated the opposite correlation indicating that the diet shift was likely connected with recent climate warming. Kittiwakes, which gather available fish and zooplankton near the sea surface to feed their chicks, can act as messengers of ecosystem change. Changes in their diet reveal that the Kongsfjord system has drifted in an Atlantic direction over the last decade.
Project description:The Barents Sea is experiencing long-term climate-driven changes, e.g. modification in oceanographic conditions and extensive sea ice loss, which can lead to large, yet unquantified disruptions to ecosystem functioning. This key region hosts a large fraction of Arctic primary productivity. However, processes governing benthic and pelagic coupling are not mechanistically understood, limiting our ability to predict the impacts of future perturbations. We combine field observations with a reaction-transport model approach to quantify organic matter (OM) processing and disentangle its drivers. Sedimentary OM reactivity patterns show no gradients relative to sea ice extent, being mostly driven by seafloor spatial heterogeneity. Burial of high reactivity, marine-derived OM is evident at sites influenced by Atlantic Water (AW), whereas low reactivity material is linked to terrestrial inputs on the central shelf. Degradation rates are mainly driven by aerobic respiration (40-75%), being greater at sites where highly reactive material is buried. Similarly, ammonium and phosphate fluxes are greater at those sites. The present-day AW-dominated shelf might represent the future scenario for the entire Barents Sea. Our results represent a baseline systematic understanding of seafloor geochemistry, allowing us to anticipate changes that could be imposed on the pan-Arctic in the future if climate-driven perturbations persist. This article is part of the theme issue 'The changing Arctic Ocean: consequences for biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystem functioning'.
Project description:Abstract Climate change is commonly associated with many species redistributions and the influence of other factors may be marginalized, especially in the rapidly warming Arctic. The Barents Sea, a high latitude large marine ecosystem in the Northeast Atlantic has experienced above?average temperatures since the mid?2000s with divergent bottom temperature trends at subregional scales. Concurrently, the Barents Sea stock of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua, one of the most important commercial fish stocks in the world, increased following a large reduction in fishing pressure and expanded north of 80°N. We examined the influence of food availability and temperature on cod expansion using a comprehensive data set on cod stomach fullness stratified by subregions characterized by divergent temperature trends. We then tested whether food availability, as indexed by cod stomach fullness, played a role in cod expansion in subregions that were warming, cooling, or showed no trend. The greatest increase in cod occupancy occurred in three northern subregions with contrasting temperature trends. Cod apparently benefited from initial high food availability in these regions that previously had few large?bodied fish predators. The stomach fullness in the northern subregions declined rapidly after a few years of high cod abundance, suggesting that the arrival of cod caused a top?down effect on the prey base. Prolonged cod residency in the northern Barents Sea is, therefore, not a certainty. We examined the influence of food availability and temperature on cod expansion using a comprehensive data set on cod stomach fullness stratified by subregions characterized by divergent temperature trends. The greatest increase in cod occupancy occurred in three northern subregions with contrasting temperature trends. Here, cod apparently benefited from initial high food availability with few large?bodied fish predators prior to the arrival of cod.
Project description:The two-branched inflow of warm and saline Atlantic Water to the Arctic is the major contributor of oceanic heat to the Arctic climate system. However, while the Atlantic Water entering the Arctic through the Fram Strait retains a large part of its heat as it flows along the Arctic continental slope, the branch flowing through the shallow Barents Sea releases a substantial amount of heat to the atmosphere. Hence, the pathway of the Atlantic Water into the Arctic to a large degree determines the short term fate of its heat. Here we show events in which the relative strengths of the two branches are affected by wind-induced Ekman-transport off the northern Barents Sea shelf. The resulting decrease in sea surface height induces a cyclonic circulation anomaly along the slope encircling the northern Barents Sea shelf area, which enhances the flow through the Barents Sea while weakening the branch flowing along the Arctic continental slope.