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Large climatological, environmental and oceanographic shifts are having great effects in the Arctic including shallow waters of
the northeastern Chukchi Sea, Alaska. The number of ice-free days is increasing, the extents of summer ice cover declining
and biological communities are responding. While pelagic-benthic coupling is a major determinant for production, there are
significant deviations from expected macrobenthic characteristics driven by other mechanisms including topographic control
over water circulation and are potential sources of long-term change. Water from the Bering Sea flows northward through
Bering Strait into the Chukchi Sea advecting organic carbon northward and contributing to the ecological characteristics of
the Arctic Ocean. Water exits the shelf in part via Barrow Canyon. Increased biomass near the head of the canyon reflects
increased transport of carbon as food for suspension feeders as compared to higher proportions of deposit-feeding organisms
offshore. Benthic-feeding marine mammals relying on crustaceans utilize nearshore resources while mammals relying on
other resources feed offshore. Changes in the flow of water through the area may be sources for future change as interactions
between circulation, seafloor and coastline topography and biological processes appear to be drive spatial variations in benthic
resources and are related to increased production in benthic hotspots.
Arny L Blanchard is a Benthic Ecologist and Biostatistician with the Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks and is involved in marine studies
throughout Alaska?s waters from Prince William Sound to the Beaufort Sea. His research is focused on the spatial and temporal changes of marine communities
and assessment of human disturbance in the environment. He currently manages the Port Valdez Environmental Studies Program and the benthic component of
the Chukchi Sea Environmental Studies Program in northeastern Chukchi Sea and contributes to the Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program.
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