Soft bottom benthos and responses to climate variation and eutrophication in Skagerrak
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Sea Research. 2018, 141 83-98. 10.1016/j.seares.2018.08.007
Skagerrak has been subject to several anthropogenic influences over the past decades, with climate change and eutrophication being considered as the most serious and large-scale disturbance factors. The present study reports monitoring data from six soft bottom stations in 50–380 m depth at the Norwegian Skagerrak coast aimed at investigating to which degree changes in environmental conditions have affected species communities and diversity. Sampling was carried out yearly in the period 1990–2010. Links between benthic community patterns and climate factors and physicochemical variables from the water mases were examined using uni- and multivariate statistical methods. Throughout the period species richness gradually increased. Although all stations showed distinct species assemblages, the community composition gradually changed towards increased importance of sensitive small molluscs and tube-building annelids concurrent with a general temperature increase and reduction of nutrients in the water masses. The trend was largely similar over the stations, indicating that large-scale changes in the Skagerrak water masses were driving factors compared to possible influences from local sources. The faunal changes during the study period thus indicate an improved status of the soft bottom benthos, which possibly could be related to a reduction in the eutrophication. On a shorter scale, species richness was found to vary in relation to North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index in the previous year (decline), nutrient concentrations in spring (decline), and winter water temperature (incline).