• Breeding performance of kittiwakes and murres in relation to oceanographic and meteorologic conditions across the shelf of the southeastern Bering Sea

      Lloyd, Denby S. (1985-12)
      Contrary to expected results, black-legged and red-legged kittiwakes on St. George Island exhibited more variability in annual breeding performance than black-legged kittiwakes at Cape Peirce. Thick-billed and common murres at St. George also showed more annual variability than common murres at Cape Peirce. Kittiwakes at St. George exhibited improved breeding performance during years with colder water temperatures and lower summer wind speeds. Correlations between breeding performance in kittiwakes and murres and environmental conditions at Cape Peirce were inconclusive. A general decline in the annual breeding success of kittiwakes and murres at St. George between 1976 and 1984 coincided with reduced abundance of juvenile walleye pollock. Consistently low breeding success of kittiwakes and murres at Cape Peirce varied little among six years observed between 1970 and 1984. These results challenge previous considerations of pelagic food webs on the outer shelf as being more stable than those in the coastal domain.
    • CARBON AND NITROGEN ASSIMILATION IN THE CLAMS NUCULANA RADIATA AND MACOMA MOESTA FROM THE BERING SEA

      Weems, Jared; Iken, Katrin; Gradinger, Rolf; Wooller, Matthew (University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2011-08)
      The predicted climate-induced reduction in sea ice presence in the Bering Sea could impact benthic trophic interactions; however, species-specific consumer dependence on ice algal production is largely unknown. My objective was to track feeding in the benthic clams, Nuculana radiata and Macoma moesta, using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Nuculana radiata had slow isotopic assimilation rates, with lipids taking up isotope markers fastest and muscle tissue the slowest. Lipids may thus be particularly suitable to track the immediate ingestion of sea ice algal export in benthic consumers. When isotopically enriched food was added to natural sediment cores, N. radiata assimilated 60% less of the isotope markers than when feeding on algal food in isolation. Possibly, this difference is related to the ingestion of other, naturally present food sources in the sediment. Macoma moesta showed 30% higher isotopic assimilation compared to N. radiata in sediment cores. I suggest that differing feeding behaviors between the species provide differential access to the sedimented algal food. Based on these results, N. radiata is likely better able to utilize food sources buried in the sediment and may be more competitive over M. moesta under conditions of reduced ice algal production in the northern Bering Sea.
    • Carbon biogeochemistry of the eastern Bering Sea shelf

      Cross, Jessica; Mathis, Jeremy; Feely, Richard; Stockwell, Dean; Weingartner, Thomas; Whitledge, Terry (2013-12)
      The uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO₂) has caused perturbations to marine biogeochemistry in recent years, including decreasing ocean pH and carbonate mineral saturation states (Ω). Collectively termed ocean acidification (OA), these conditions hinder the growth of calcium carbonate shells and effectively reduce habitat for some marine calcifiers. Given that the Bering Sea is one of the world's most productive marine ecosystems and supports both commercial fishing industries and subsistence communities, it is integral to understand its susceptibility to OA. Here, new observations of the organic and inorganic carbon systems are used to identify mechanisms leading to CO₂ accumulation and sub-regional enhancement of vulnerability to OA processes. Chapter 1 describes the state of knowledge of OA in this area, highlighting two regions where low Ω conditions are consistently observed: near the coast, and over the northern shelf. Chapter 2 describes net heterotrophic processes near the coast, in conjunction with low bottom water Ω. Chapter 3 examines this heterotrophy in more detail, showing that focused deposition of organic matter and its subsequent respiration. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on very low Ω values observed over the northern shelf. In combination with natural respiration processes, anthropogenic CO₂ was shown to cause low Ω and seasonal dissolution of carbonate minerals in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 illustrates how sea ice cover inhibits the flux of CO₂ from the surface ocean to the atmosphere, which raises the inventory of CO₂ in the water column. These results are synthesized in Chapter 6. Low-Ω conditions and areas of carbonate mineral dissolution will continue to expand as anthropogenic CO₂ accumulates in shelf waters in the coming decades, further reducing viable habitat for key calcifiers. Model projections of future surface water conditions indicate that average Ω over the Bering Sea shelf will drop below the observed natural variability by 2100, with average conditions favoring carbonate mineral dissolution in surface waters by 2150. Presently, episodic events will cause regions of the Bering Sea to be undersaturated in Ω, which could have significant and cascading impacts throughout the Pacific-Arctic region.
    • Carbon isotopic composition of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their weathering in Kachemak Bay sediment

      Borland, Tara Ann (2004-05)
      Identification of sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in sediments is an important step in reducing anthropogenic contamination. Identifications based solely on the composition of PAH can be confounded by compositional changes during weathering and biodegradation. Stable isotopic composition of individual PAH offer a source marker that may be less susceptible to alteration. The [alpha]¹³C values of PAH in major potential sources to the Kachemak Bay area were analyzed. To determine the stability of the [alpha]¹³C values of PAH in crude and diesel oil, microbial degradation experiments using sediment from the Kachemak Bay, Alaska, area were conducted over a one-year period. The impact of weathering on the isotopic composition of North Slope crude oil and diesel oil was also examined over a five-week period in aquaria with Macoma balthica, an intertidal bivalve. For both degradation experiments, PAH concentrations decreased and their composition changed, but the [alpha]¹³C values of individual PAHs remained stable. Hence, [alpha]¹³C values of individual PAHs have excellent potential as a relatively stable indicator of their sources. Based on isotopic and compositional data, the PAH in Kachemak Bay sediments appear to have several sources.
    • Carbon sources and trophic connectivity in seafloor food webs in the Alaska Arctic and sub-Arctic

      Oxtoby, Laura Elizabeth; Wooller, Matthew; O'Brien, Diane; Iken, Katrin; Horstmann, Larissa; Budge, Suzanne (2016-05)
      Stable isotope analysis offers critical insight into organic matter pathways that sustain and link consumers in a food web. Indirect examination of organic matter sources and consumer diets using stable isotope analysis is especially valuable in the Alaska Arctic and sub-Arctic marine realm, where organisms of interest are difficult to observe given their remote habitat and elusive behavior. The research objective of this body of work was to use novel applications of stable isotope analysis to extend our understanding of organic matter sources, trophic pathways, and resource competition among benthic consumers. Microphytobenthos, a community of photosynthesizing unicellular microscopic algal cells on the seafloor sediment, has not been included in stable isotope food web models in the Alaska Arctic and sub-Arctic due to challenges associated with sample collection and analysis. I constrained the isotopic composition of this potential algal source by integrating field measurements, physiological relationships previously established by laboratory studies, and a range of algal growth rates specific to high latitude primary production. Relative to other sources of primary production in the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and lower latitude ecosystems, estimates for stable carbon isotope values of total organic carbon from microphytobenthos in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas were higher than those for Arctic riverine organic matter, but lower than ice algal sources and microphytobenthos measurements from lower latitudes. To further elucidate trophic pathways and resource partitioning among benthic invertebrate consumers, I combined compound-specific stable isotope analysis, a relatively new analytical tool, with fatty acid analysis to estimate proportional contributions of algal sources from ice, open ocean, and surface sediments to common polychaete and bivalve consumers in the Bering Sea. Benthic invertebrates were collected in 2009-2010 and represented a diverse range of feeding strategies, including the suspension/surface deposit-feeding bivalves Macoma calcarea and Ennucula tenuis, the subsurface deposit-feeding bivalve, Nuculana radiata, the head down deposit-feeding polychaete Leitoscoloplos pugettensis, and the predator/scavenger Nephtys spp. Differences in dominant algal sources to these invertebrate consumers corresponded, for the most part, to feeding strategy. Bivalves primarily obtained fatty acids from surface sediments, whereas L. pugettensis obtained fatty acids from a microbially altered phytodetrital fatty acid pool, and Nephtys spp. from ice algal fatty acids acquired indirectly through predation. This multi-proxy compound-specific stable isotope approach was then applied to examine dietary overlap between Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) in 2009-2011 who feed primarily on benthic invertebrate prey. Differences in the relative proportions of fatty acids produced exclusively by benthic prey (non-methylene interrupted fatty acids) indicated that walruses and bearded seals had divergent diets. Proportional contributions of algal sources from ice, open ocean, and surface sediments to the prey consumed by walruses and bearded seals also varied. Walruses consumed prey that relied primarily on benthic and pelagic carbon sources (i.e., suspension/surface and subsurface deposit-feeding bivalves). In contrast, bearded seals consumed prey that relied on benthic and ice algal carbon sources (i.e., omnivorous and predatory benthic invertebrates). In conclusion, this research revealed that, in the recent study years, benthic food webs in the Alaska Arctic and sub-Arctic contained several trophic pathways linking consumers to distinct organic matter sources. Consequently, projected changes in algal production with future climate warming may elicit species-specific responses among benthic organisms.
    • Changes in the spring sea ice concentration in the Bering Sea from 1972-2000 in relation to spotted seal (Phoca largha) pregnancy rates

      Picco, Candace M. (2005-08)
      Spotted seals are most dependent on the seasonal sea ice in the Bering Sea during the spring pupping and mating season. Changes in sea ice characteristics, as related to recent documented changes in climate, may have an effect on spotted seal reproduction. This study investigates the relation between changes in the spatial and temporal patterns of the spring sea ice concentration in the Bering Sea from 1972-2000 to changes in the pregnancy rates of the spotted seal (Phoca largha). Multinomial time-series regressions were used to determine the influence of different climatic variables on the sea ice concentration. Different statistical methods were used to compare the ice conditions of defined regions in the Bering Sea and spotted seal pregnancy rates among 20 years from 1964- 2003. The results showed no definitive patterns relating the monthly climatic variables and sea ice concentration averages; however, noticeable trends in sea ice were found. The variability of the seal pregnancy rates coincided with changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem and ice concentration. This study demonstrated that seal pregnancy rates and sea ice concentration varied temporally and spatially, the direct causality of these variations was uncertain.
    • Characterizing glucocorticoid levels in five species of sea ducks occurring in Alaska

      Nilsson, Peter B. (2004-12)
      Stress hormone analysis, used in conjunction with other physiological parameters, may help identify factors affecting sea duck populations in their natural environment. Corticosterone, the primary 'stress hormone' in birds, is secreted in response to a stressor and enhances an individual's chance of survival by inducing physiological and behavioral changes. Establishing a valid method for evaluating stress hormone levels in sea ducks and gaining basic information on baseline concentrations and stress response in these birds are important first steps to identify factors that may negatively affect sea duck populations. This study validated a radioimmunoassay (RIA) procedure to measure corticosterone concentrations in harlequin duck serum and feces and in Steller's, spectacled, common, and king eider serum. Other objectives included characterization of baseline corticosterone concentrations, investigation of stress response, and the relationship between corticosterone and other variables in captive and wild sea ducks. The results indicate that fecal samples can be used to non-invasively measure corticosterone in harlequin ducks. Captive birds exhibited overall lower baseline levels of corticosterone than wild birds. The stress response observed in harlequin ducks was similar to other avian species. Rapid post-capture blood sampling is critical for evaluation of baseline corticosterone levels.
    • Chemosensory responses and foraging behavior of Pycnopodia helianthoides: predator or scavenger?

      Brewer, Reid; Norcross, Brenda; Highsmith, Raymond; Iken, Katrin (2003-08)
      Chemical cues released by damaged or dead organisms can affect how and where benthic scavengers feed, whether damage or mortality is natural or fishery-related. These cues may also cause predators to act as facultative scavengers. Experiments were performed to determine the role that the seastar Pycnopodia helianthoides plays in the presence of scavengable prey. The results of these experiments suggest that P. helianthoides preferentially scavenge in lieu of its normal predatory role. When given a choice, P. helianthoides choose damaged or decaying food over live prey even when live prey is encountered en route to the damaged animal. The densities and activities of P. helianthoides were compared between areas where food was continually introduced and areas where food was not introduced. Adding scavengable food to areas with P. helianthoides caused a spatial redistribution of the seastar population, a change in the foraging dynamics of the seastars, and in some cases, a change in the densities of the prey that P. helianthoides normally consume. The effects of introducing food appeared to result in a change in the role that P. helianthoides plays in the benthic community. This change in modes could have significant effects on the equilibrium of the benthic community.
    • Comparing the nutritional quality of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) diets

      Bando, Monica Kaho Herkules (2002-12)
      Though the primary cause(s) of the Steller sea lion decline remains unknown, one hypothesis is nutritional stress, possibly the result of climatic regime shifts reducing prey availability and/or quality. Researchers at the Alaska SeaLife Center formulated three feeding regimes representative of Steller sea lion diets: prior to and during their population decline and from a stable population. The purpose of this project was to compare the nutritional quality of these diets using proximate composition and bomb calorimetry. The pre-decline and stable diets are composed of more high-fat prey, like herring, with resulting energy densities being significantly higher than the decline diet, comprising more low-fat prey, like octopus. Assumining the feeding regimes analyzed represent Steller sea lion diets prior to and during their population decline and in stable populations, results from this study are consistent with the possibility that nutritional stress is a cause of the Steller sea lion decline.
    • A comparison of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in two climate regimes in the north Pacific Ocean using stable carbon and nitrogren isotope ratios

      Satterfield, Franklin Robert (2000-12)
      This study explores how the climate shift in the late 1970's impacted sockeye salmon feeding. Stable isotope ratios (¹³C and ¹⁵N) of recent muscle and scale tissues from five mature salmon species are highly correlated (R²=0.96 and 0.91, respectively), validating the use of archived scales for retrospective analysis. These data suggest a trophic separation by species with chinook occupying the highest level, followed by coho with some degree of overlap among sockeye, pink and chum at the lowest level. Archived scales from four different sockeye stocks from Kodiak Island and Southeast region were analyzed over the last 34 years to investigate changes relative to the 1976-1977 Climate Regime Shift. Most stocks show no statistical differences before and after the regime shift in either isotope. Despite recorded differences in sockeye abundance and size between these two regimes, these data suggest only minor changes in prey items.
    • A comparison of the food habits of juvenile Pacific cod and walleye pollock in the southeast Bering Sea

      Lee, Sang Suh (1985-05)
      The food habits of juvenile Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus, and walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma, collected in July and August in 1981 through 1983 in the eastern Bering Sea, were compared in relation to some morphological characteristics. The fishes' gill rakers were counted, the distances between gill rakers were measured, and the stomach tissue weight was measured. The stomach contents were analysed by occurrence, number and volume. It was found that the fishes' gill structures were related to size-selective predation in both fishes. Pollock utilized small zooplankton and cod large zooplankton. Food competition was expected when fishes are smaller than 40 mm TL as indicated by high values in proportional similarity. However, food competition decreases as the fishes grow and develop distinct size-selective predation habits. Prey composition in the stomachs reflected the regional differences of local oceanographic environments.
    • Contemporary mesozooplankton communities of the Beaufort Sea

      Smoot, Caitlin A.; Hopcroft, Russell; Winsor, Peter; Coyle, Kenneth (2015-08)
      Zooplankton are critical trophic links and important modifiers of organic carbon cycles, yet are poorly characterized for much of the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, particularly in mesopelagic (> 200 m) waters. Zooplankton were sampled with 150 and 505 μm mesh nets in the upper 200 m in sections of the Beaufort Sea between Barrow Canyon and the Mackenzie River during August and September 2010-2013 to characterize the species composition, abundance, and biomass of epipelagic Beaufort Sea zooplankton communities. I observed 106 taxonomic zooplankton categories during four field seasons across both mesh sizes; copepods exhibited the highest species richness (38 species), followed by cnidarians (16 species) and amphipods (14 species). Average holozooplankton abundance ranged from 1110-3880 ind. m⁻³ in the 150-μm net and 47-215 ind. m⁻³ in the 505-μm net. Average holozooplankton biomass ranged from 23.8-76.9 mg dry-weight (DW) m⁻³ and 13.9-57.6 mg DW m⁻³ in the 150-μm and 505-μm nets, respectively. Spatial structure of zooplankton communities reflected a blending of across- and along-shelf temperature and salinity gradients that were driven by relative contributions of different water mass types. To characterize mesopelagic zooplankton communities of the Beaufort Sea, I collected stratified zooplankton samples and physical oceanographic data at stations along the Beaufort Sea slope during August 2013. I documented 93 taxonomic categories; greatest diversity was observed in the copepods (48 species), followed by the cnidarians (10 species) and amphipods (8 species). Distinct zooplankton communities were associated with the three main water masses in the study region: the Polar Mixed Layer (PML), Arctic Halocline Water (AHW), and Atlantic Water (AW). Average abundance and biomass were highest (1150 ind. m⁻³ and 27.1 mg DW m⁻³ , respectively) in the PML (0-50 m) and declined with depth, to a minimum in the 500-1000 m layer of AW (15 ind. m⁻³ and 0.6 mg DW m⁻³). Conversely, species richness increased with depth. Community structure was highly correlated with salinity and depth, both in terms of abundance (Spearman correlation (ρ) = 0.84, p < 0.01) and biomass (ρ = 0.81, p < 0.01). Zooplankton communities in the Beaufort Sea exhibit structure along three axes: alongshore, across-shore, and depth-related. Community structure along these axes reflects hydrographic gradients created by different water masses and physical factors in the study region. This work provides a contemporary benchmark for Beaufort Sea zooplankton community species composition, abundance, and biomass from which future change may be assessed.
    • Current Primary Production Rates Of The Western Arctic Ocean Estimated By Stable Carbon And Nitrogen Isotope Tracers

      Lee, Sang Heon; Whitledge, Terry E. (2005)
      Currently, the environments in the Arctic are rapidly changing. These changes of climate and ice conditions may alter the quantity, quality, and timing of production of ice algae and phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean. The objectives in this study were to detect any change in the carbon production between current and previous studies and lay the groundwork for the future monitoring of ecosystem response to climate change in the different regions of the western Arctic Ocean. As an Arctic ocean mostly covered by multi or first-year ice, the deep Canada Basin had generally low photosynthetic rates and the maximum rates were found between 50 and 60 m in the basin. Based on the percentage of ice cover, the annual production ranged from 3 to 7.5 g C m-2 Z in the basin. Nutrients appear to be a main limiting factor at surface, whereas the phytoplankton activity might be limited by the low light in the Chl a-max layer. At the surface below the ice, photosynthetic activity might be controlled by both low light and nutrients. Studies of ice algae and phytoplankton at the first-year sea ice of Barrow in Alaska showed that bottom sea ice algae and phytoplankton are limited mainly by light. Therefore, the current downward trend of sea ice thickness and extent in Arctic Oceans might cause an increase in primary production or/and change in timing of the production. In addition, the composition in macromolecules of primary producers might be changed under the current ice conditions and thus nutritional status of higher trophic levels might be altered. As shallow shelf regions, Bering Strait/Chukchi Sea showed that the range of nitrate in the central Chukchi Sea was rather higher whereas the biomass of phytoplankton was lower in this study than in previous studies. Consistently, the mean carbon and nitrogen productivities from this study were almost half of values from previous studies. In conclusion, it appears that lower phytoplankton biomass in Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea resulted in the lower carbon and nitrogen uptake rates and consequently more unused nitrate in the regions.
    • Decadal Variability In The Arctic Ocean: Greenland-Iceland-Norwegian Seas Ice-Ocean-Atmosphere Climate System

      Dukhovskoy, Dmitry Stanislavovich; Johnson, Mark; Proshutinsky, Andrey (2003)
      This study investigates the decadal variability of the Arctic Ocean---Greenland, Iceland, Norwegian Seas (GIN Sea) system and possible mechanisms driving variability. The theoretical foundation of this work is the theory of Proshutinsky & Johnson [1997] that two major climate states of the Arctic---Anticyclonic Circulation Regime (ACCR) and Cyclonic Circulation Regime (CCR)---are driven by variations in the freshwater contents of the Arctic Ocean and the GIN Sea. It is hypothesized that the Arctic Ocean and the GIN Sea form an auto-oscillatory ice-ocean-atmosphere climate system with a quasi-decadal period of interannual variability. The system is characterized by two stages: (1) cold Arctic (ACCR)---warm GIN Sea with weak interaction between the basins; (2) warm Arctic (CCR)---cold GIN Sea with intense interaction between the basins. Surface air temperature and dynamic height gradients between the basins drive the auto-oscillations. This study investigates interactions between the Arctic Ocean and the GIN Sea. To test the hypothesis, a simple model of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland Sea has been developed. The Arctic shelf processes have been parameterized in a box model coupled with an Arctic Ocean module. Both the Arctic Ocean and Greenland Sea modules are coupled with a thermodynamic ice model and atmospheric models. Several model experiments have been conducted to adjust the model and to reproduce the auto-oscillatory behavior of the climate system. One of the major results of this work is the simulation of auto-oscillatory behavior of the Arctic Ocean---GIN Sea climate system. Periodical solutions obtained with seasonally varying forcing for scenarios with high and low interaction between the regions reproduce major anomalies in the ocean thermohaline structure, sea ice volume, and fresh water fluxes attributed to ACCR and CCR regimes. According to the simulation results, the characteristic time scale of the Arctic Ocean---GIN Sea system variability reproduced in the model is about 10--15 years. This outcome is consistent with theory of Proshutinsky and Johnson [1997] and shows that the Arctic Ocean---GIN Sea can be viewed as a unique auto-oscillating system.
    • Decomposition and adsorption of peptides in Alaskan coastal marine sediments

      Luo, Honghong (1994)
      In organic-rich coastal sediments, hydrolyzable amino acids make up a substantial fraction of the sedimentary content of organic nitrogen. How this organic nitrogen resists decomposition and is preserved in sediments is poorly understood. In order to investigate the factors controlling mineralization and preservation of hydrolyzable amino acids, decomposition and adsorption of peptides were studied in suboxic and anoxic pore water and sediments from Resurrection Bay (RB) and Skan Bay (SB), Alaska. Five tritium-labeled peptides, basic di-lysine, acidic di-glutamic acid, and neutral di-alanine, tri-alanine and hexa-alanine, were used as tracers. In filtered pore water, the hydrolysis rates were usually low. The exception was that the initial enzymatic hydrolysis of di-alanine and di-glutamic acid was rapid in SB pore water. The hydrolysis rates of both peptides increased with concentration. In sediments, hydrolysis was found to be the rate-limiting step of peptide decomposition. Alanyl and glutamyl peptides were hydrolyzed faster than lysyl peptide, and the hydrolysis rates among alanyl peptides decreased with increasing molecular weight. Peptide hydrolysis was affected more by molecular structure than by oxic or anoxic conditions. Adsorption of lysyl peptide to sediments was greater than that of other peptides. Basicity enhanced peptide adsorption more than increased molecular weight. Sedimentary organic matter was mainly responsible for peptide adsorption. The different patterns of peptide adsorption in RB and SB sediments were related to the greater total organic carbon concentration in SB sediment. Some of the peptide adsorption was irreversible. Adsorbed peptides were more resistant to biological decomposition than dissolved peptides. Adsorption may be an important step in the process of peptide preservation in sediments, and thus the preservation of sediment organic matter during early diagenesis.
    • Defining genetic population structure and historical connectivity of snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

      Albrecht, Gregory T.; Hardy, Sarah M.; Lopez, J. Andres; Hundertmark, Kris J. (2011-08)
      The snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is a valuable commercial resource within the Bering Sea, as well as other areas in the North Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Large populations are known to exist within the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, including recently discovered commercial sized individuals (Beaufort). However, genetic connectivity throughout these regions has not been examined until now. Based on seven polymorphic microsatellite loci, relatively low population genetic structuring occurs throughout the Alaskan region (Gst = 0.001). This homogeneity is likely due to long-distance larval dispersal, adult migrations, and a possible recent population expansion following the last glacial maximum. Furthermore, meta-population analysis was conducted for Alaskan and Northwest Atlantic stocks. Although significant genetic divergence characterizes the West Greenland stock in relation to all other populations, low divergence (Gst = 0.005) was found between Atlantic Canada crabs and those from the Alaska region. Larval dispersal between regions is highly unlikely due to the transit distance. Therefore, low divergence is likely the result of a recent population expansion into the Northwest Atlantic <5000 years ago.
    • Density and distribution of meiofauna in the northeastern Chukchi Sea

      Hajduk, Marissa; Blanchard, Arny; Hardy, Sarah; Bluhm, Bodil (2015-05)
      Meiofaunal communities in the northeastern Chukchi Sea (Alaska) are poorly known and were investigated to determine coarse taxonomic composition, distributional patterns, and density and biomass. Core samples were taken in August through October 2012 from van Veen grabs at depths of 20-45 m, in order to assess meiofauna community structure and associations with environmental and biological variables. Overall, density and biomass were dominated by nematodes, harpacticoid copepods, and foraminifera. Total meiofaunal density (9-13 ind. cm-2) was lower than in some deeper polar regions (e.g., Yermak Plateau and Nansen Basin), but generally fell within the range of published estimates for the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Total region-averaged biomass (27.4 mg C m-2) was similar to estimates for the deep Arctic Makarov and Amundsen Basins, but was much lower than shallow and productive sub-Arctic regions such as the Oosterschelde estuary (North Sea, Netherlands) and intertidal areas in Kongsfjorden (Svalbard), and some Arctic locations in the Barents Sea. The ratio of meiofaunal to macrofaunal biomass (1:438) was comparable to estimates from less productive Arctic basins and from fjords, but was unexpectedly lower than other productive polar shelves (e.g., Barents Sea shelf). Regression analysis and Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) ordination suggest water depth, % mud, and TOC are important predictors of nematode and harpacticoid copepod densities, whereas temperature, TOC, and macrofaunal biomass were correlated with meiofaunal community structure. These variables are proxies for the topographic control and water circulation in the region, and suggest circulation with advected nutrient input as the primary driving force behind community density and distribution patterns.
    • Describing Forage Fish Availability In Coastal Waters Of The Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska

      Guo, Lei; Wynne, Kate; Foy, Robert; Coyle, Kenneth; Hillgruber, Nicola; Schaufler, Lawrence (2010)
      Assessing the availability of forage fishes is key to understanding fluctuations in populations of apex predators that prey upon them, including pinnipeds and seabirds in the Gulf of Alaska. In this study, multiple aspects of forage fish availability were measured in coastal waters of the Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska, in May (2004 & 2005), August (2004 & 2005), November (2006), and April (2007). Efforts were focused on four pelagic species that consistently dominated midwater trawl catches and have been described as important prey for upper trophic level predators around the Archipelago: walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), capelin (Mallotus villosus), and eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus). Fatty acid and stomach content analyses were combined to estimate the diet composition of these forage fishes as a means of identifying the immediate source of energy they transfer to upper trophic level taxa. Values of copepod-originated fatty acids indicated underestimation of dietary copepods by stomach content analysis, which suggests that fatty acid analysis should be used to supplement conventional methodologies in forage fish field studies. Lipid content and fatty acid composition were highly variable within species, suggesting that the use of average values at the species level should be avoided in fine-scale ecological investigations. Mesoscale horizontal distribution and energy density of forage fishes were measured in May and August (2005) to assess the prey fields available to local apex predators over critical periods of their life history. Dense post-spawning aggregations formed seasonal energetic "hotspots", exemplified by herring schools on the northwest side of the Archipelago in May and capelin schools on the northeast side in August. Results presented in this dissertation offer key information needed to identify energetic pathways of significance to upper trophic level consumers in the Kodiak Archipelago. Understanding local trophic interactions and their role in regional apex predator population fluctuations will improve efforts to develop trophodynamic models and ecosystem-based fishery management plans in the North Pacific Ocean.