Biomass, commonly occurring and dominant species of macrobenthos in Onega Bay (White Sea, Russia): data from three different decades


Katya Solyanko, Institute for Estuarine and Coastal Studies, University of Hull, HU6 7RX Hull, UK.


Onega Bay is the largest bay in the White Sea, characterised by shallow depth, a range of sediment types and strong tidal currents. All these factors provide conditions for high species richness and biomass. This study reviews data from three surveys of sublittoral macrobenthos undertaken by Russian institutes: the benthic survey covering the entire Onega Bay in 1952; the survey performed in the northern part of the area in 1981/90, and a study carried out in 2006 in the eastern part of the bay. In total, data from 107 stations were analysed. The data in different surveys were collected by different grab types. The datasets of both 1981/90 and 2006 overlap the 1952 survey area. The pattern of biomass distribution was consistent between the years of survey and was characterised by the low biomass at the northern periphery of the bay and the highest biomass observed in the coastal waters of the Solovetsky Islands. Bivalves and cirripeds (mostly Modiolus modiolus, Arctica islandica, Balanus balanus and Verucca stroemia) dominated in biomass. Neither the biomass share of dominant species nor the frequency of occurrence of several common species in these groups changed markedly between 1952 and 1981/90. Although the results of the 2006 survey appear somewhat different from the patterns of previous years, this does not indicate major changes in the benthic communities, because the survey in 2006 was designed in a different way and its overlap with the 1952 survey was minimal. However, the dominant species (by biomass) –Aislandica, Mmodiolus and Vstroemia– held their leading positions. Results of the multidimensional scaling analysis based on the biomass data for all taxa encountered in the 1952 survey indicate considerable mixing of the samples from all surveys. This may be interpreted as the absence of major shifts in the sublittoral communities of the macrobenthos of Onega Bay at decadal scale. This kind of stability may be explained by an oceanographical regime resilient to climate variation and a relatively low anthropogenic environmental impact when compared to other shallow European seas.