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NSF PLR Collaborative Research: Formation and persistence of benthic biological hotspots in the Pacific Arctic

Persistently high macrofaunal benthic biomass has been observed at four major benthic hotspots in the Northern Bering and Chukchi Seas. These highly productive benthic communities are ecologically important and provide abundant prey for benthic-feeding marine mammals and seabirds. This study investigates the physical and biological processes that contribute to the formation of these benthic hotspots, and determines how changes in the Arctic system (including ice, ocean, and atmospheric forcing) will affect their formation and persistence. A better understanding of the mechanisms for the formation and persistence of these benthic hotspots is important and requires the atmosphere-ice-ocean system approach taken in this study, since these formation mechanisms involve multiple components of the Arctic system, including both biological and physical components of sea ice and ocean processes and atmospheric forcing.


Conceptual diagram illustrating sympagic-pelagic-benthic coupling in the shallow continental shelf ecosystem of northern Bering/Chukchi Sea.

Funding Agencies

The National Science Foundation under grant number PLR 1604047 funded this research.


Rubao Ji (WHOI) Carin Ashjian (WHOI), Zhixuan Feng (WHOI), Jinlun Zhang (UW), Robert Campbell (URI), Jacqueline Grebmeier (UMaryland)

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