Session 4: Fjord systems: Ecology, bentho-pelagic coupling, and anthropogenic impacts

Hosts: Thomas Heran* and Santiago Pineda-Metz* 

*Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research   

Fjord systems have been carved by extreme forces of nature, resulting in a complex geography of channels, islands, and islets. Here, pronounced physical and chemical gradients overlap (e.g. tide and salinity), forming an intricate pattern with multiple combinations. These overlaying sets of factors shape many unique habitats and niches for marine organisms, resulting in a hotspot of biodiversity due to the elevated species richness, both benthic and pelagic.

Here, as in any other marine ecosystem, benthos and pelagos are connected via processes where matter is exchanged between them. An example in fjord system can be found in habitat-forming and sessile species such as coldwater corals. These corals are suspension feeders which capture zooplankton and suspended detritus, thus strengthening the bentho-pelagic coupling by enhancing carbon and nutrient fluxes from the pelagic to the benthic realm.

Fjord systems have been exposed to recent significant anthropogenic climate change and other man-made pressures such as fishing, aquaculture and dams. Due to the lack of ecological and environmental knowledge of these systems, the extent of the impact is far from known.

Thus, this session aims to present recent findings in terms of fjord dynamics by including, without being restricted, to topics such as (1) fjord ecology and its relevance to mitigate global warming, (2) anthropogenic and environmental threats to the fragile fjord ecosystem, (3) life history of a fjord specie, and (4) seasonal dynamics in fjords. We expect this session to be especially interesting for scientist focused on fjord ecology, but also for all the scientific community working in key species and oceanography within fjord ecosystems.

We expect this session to include multidisciplinary scientific approaches, showing the interconnectivity between biotic and abiotic characteristics of fjord systems.