Increasing temperatures, diversity loss and reorganization of deep-sea fish communities east of Greenland
In recent years, Arctic and sub-Arctic fish communities have shown extensive re - organization on shelves and in shallow waters, but little is known about the ecological impact of environmental changes in deeper waters. We examined temporal changes (1998−2016) in fish diversity and community structure based on research survey data from East Greenland, over a depth gradient spanning 400 to 1500 m. A northern and a southern continental slope region, 360 km apart, were analysed for temporal changes in water temperature and fish community structure. The bottom water temperature increased by up to 0.2 and 0.5°C, respectively. Contrary to expectations, there was a concomitant loss of species richness of up to 3 and 5 species, respectively, and a decrease in total abundance in both regions. Abundances of individual species displayed different trends between regions, with 3 species of wolf fishes (Anarhichas spp.) and American plaice Hippoglossoides platessoides decreasing in the north and blue antimora Antimora rostrata, Agassiz’ slickhead Alepocephalus agassizii and the roundnose grenadier Coryphaenoides rupestris decreasing in the south. The regional differences may reflect different oceanographic characteristics, as the northern region is more influenced by colder Arctic water, whereas the southern region is primarily influenced by the Subpolar Gyre (SPG). However, the observed temperature increase is expected to be due to an intensifying Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and/or anthropogenic climate change and not to SPG changes. The observed changes in biodiversity and community structure associated with warming are likely to affect community dynamics and alter ecosystem functioning.