Public Release: 

Life on the floor of the Arctic Ocean, with rigor and in detail

Study provides new data on distribution of marine communities in the deep, dark, cold


In an extensive and rigorous study of animal life on the Central Arctic Ocean floor, researchers have shown that water depth and food availability influence the species composition, density, and biomass of benthic communities, according to a study published October 17, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The study, led by a team including Antje Boetius of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany, also confirmed for the first time that species diversity on the Arctic floor display a similar depth-related pattern to that seen in more temperate waters.

Because of the long winter and permanent ice cover, life on the floor of the Central Arctic Ocean is sparser than in temperate oceans, but key characteristics of these benthic communities have not been well characterized. To address this problem, Boetius and colleagues combined data from previous ocean floor surveys with new data, including from 2012, the year of the most severe ice retreat over the Arctic Ocean in recent history.

They found that, as predicted, total biomass fell as depth increased, consistent with a food input for animal life, and the rate of decline with depth was greater than in temperate oceans. Five different community types were identified, which differed in species composition and were dependent on depth, ranging from the shallow waters of the continental shelf, to the increasing depths of the continental slope, to the abyssal plain more than four kilometers deep. As seen in temperate waters, species diversity rose and then fell as depth increased.

In this remote ocean, insufficient data are available to track diversity or biomass changes over time, but the authors hope this study will provide a baseline for answering critical questions in the future about the effects of climate change on vulnerable Arctic waters.


In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE:

Citation: Vedenin A, Gusky M, Gebruk A, Kremenetskaia A, Rybakova E, Boetius A (2018) Spatial distribution of benthic macrofauna in the Central Arctic Ocean. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0200121.

Funding: Funding of this study was provided by the Alfred Wegener Institute (Polar Regions and Coasts in a Changing Earth System = PACES II program, and by the European Research Council Advanced Grant 294757 ( to Dr. Antje Boetius. This work was partly supported by the Russian Science Foundation Grant 14-50-00095 ( to Dr. Andrey Vedenin, Russian Foundation for Basic Research Grant 17-05-00787 ( to Dr. Andrey Vedenin, Dr. Elena Rybakova and Antonina Kremenetskaia, and 18-05-60228 ( to Dr. Andrey Gebruk (data analysis). The funders had no role in study design, data collection, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. There was no additional external funding received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.