Variation of scavenger richness and abundance between sites of high and low iceberg scour frequency in Ryder Bay, west Antarctic Peninsula
Physical disturbance, particularly from iceberg scour, is a major structuring force in polar benthic communities at shelf depths. Scouring kills and damages benthic organisms providing food for the abundant scavenging fauna of coastal Antarctic waters. This trophic group is likely to be strongly affected by changes in iceberg scouring. A baited underwater camera system was used to examine the distribution of scavenging fauna in relation to the spatial variation in exposure to iceberg impacts experienced at different iceberg scouring conditions and depths within Ryder Bay. The results indicate that the relationships between depth and scavenger abundance and assemblage composition differed between high and low scour sites. Scavenger abundance increased with depth at high scour sites and fell with depth a low scour sites. There was also significant difference in community composition between sites within each scouring condition. Scavenger species richness also exhibited an increase with depth at most sites consistent with the established pattern of declining iceberg scouring frequency with depth. Shannon–Wiener diversity increased with depth but significantly more steeply in highly scoured sites. Our results suggest that depth and exposure to icebergs interact to shape the scavenger community. The significant differences within the high and low scour groups suggest that other factors remain to be investigated and that there is probably a nonlinear relationship between scouring intensity and the favourability of a site for scavengers.
Authors: Dunlop, Katherine M., Barnes, David K., Bailey, David M.