Meiofauna in polar regions

Especially in polar regions global warming has dramatic effects. Even at the bottom of the sea these changes are visible: glacial melting creates newly ice-free areas and the input of sediments into shallow water systems changes the environment. This can lead to changes in the sediment and shifts in community composition.

Species composition and colonization potential of the 
meiofauna in the Arctic and the Antarctic can thus be good indicators for climate change.

In the Antarctic deep sea we studied for the first time the sediment depth distribution of the meiofauna before and after a phytoplankton bloom.During the expedition ANDEEP-SYSTCO we found out that the individual density of the meiofauna is enhanced at the sediment surface after the food input from the photic zone.

Species composition and colonization potential of the meiofauna in the Arctic

The Arctic science village of Ny Ǻlesund is located at Kongsfjorden (Spitzbergen) where the German Alfred-Wegener- Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the French Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor run the AWIPEV station. In cooperation with Dr. Jürgen Laudien (AWI) we participated in a longterm colonization study with artificial sediments at 20 meters depth.

Polar meiofauna communities show extremely long recovery times after disturbance. That is important for newly ice-free areas and for sites affected by iceberg scouring. Our experiment showed that although the same individual densities were reached after only one year of recovery even after three years the community was characterised by higher copepod numbers than the surroundig sediment (Veit-Köhler et al. 2008).


Species composition and colonization potential of the meiofauna in the Antarctic

The German-Argentinian Dallmann Laboratory, an annex to the Argentinian Jubany Station at King George Island, South Shetland Islands, is the starting point for many scientific activities in and around Potter Cove. Since 1994 several depth transects have been sampled in this shallow water area. We study the diversity of harpacticoids and the ecology of meiofauna in relation to sediment structure.

Even when the bay is frozen scuba diving is possible in order to obtain sediment samples. For diving in the Antarctic a scientific diver licence is necessary.

The copepod “giants” of the bay are Pseudotachidius jubanyensis Veit-Köhler & Willen, 1999 and Scottopsyllus praecipuus Veit-Köhler, 2000. Both live at the sea floor and have a body size of one millimeter. In the plankton one of the biggest harpacticoids is Alteutha potter Veit-Köhler & Fuentes, 2007 with 1.7 mm length.