Macrobenthic Biomass Relations in the Faroe-Shetland Channel: An Arctic-Atlantic Boundary Environment

TitleMacrobenthic Biomass Relations in the Faroe-Shetland Channel: An Arctic-Atlantic Boundary Environment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsNarayanaswamy, BE, Bett, BJ
Paginatione18602 -
Date Published04/2011

The Faroe-Shetland Channel, located in the NE Atlantic, ranges in depth from 0–1700 m and is an unusual deep-sea environment because of its complex and dynamic hydrographic regime, as well as having numerous different seafloor habitats. Macrofaunal samples have been collected on a 0.5 mm mesh sieve from over 300 stations in a wide area survey and on nested 0.5 and 0.25 mm mesh sieves along a specific depth transect. Contrary to general expectation, macrofauanl biomass in the Channel did not decline with increasing depth. When examined at phylum level, two main biomass patterns with depth were apparent: (a) polychaetes showed little change in biomass on the upper slope then increased markedly below 500 m to a depth of 1100 m before declining; and (b) other phyla showed enhanced biomass between 300–500 m. The polychaete response may be linked with a seafloor environment change to relatively quiescent hydrodynamic conditions and an increasing sediment mud content that occurs at c. 500 m. In contrast, the mid-slope enhancement of other phyla biomass may reflect the hydrodynamically active interface between the warm and cold water masses present in the Channel at c. 300–500 m. Again contrary to expectation, mean macrofaunal body size did not decline with depth, and the relative contribution of smaller (>0.25 mm<0.5 mm) to total (>0.25 mm) macrobenthos did not increase with depth. Overall our total biomass and average individual biomass estimates appear to be greater than those predicted from global analyses. It is clear that global models of benthic biomass distribution may mask significant variations at the local and regional scale.