The relationships between modern Arctic benthic foraminifera and their ecological controls, along with their sensitivity to rapid environmental changes, is still poorly understood. This study examines how modern benthic foraminifera respond to annual environmental changes in the glaciated Arctic fjord Kongsfjorden, western Svalbard. Large environmental gradients due to the inflow of warm and saline Atlantic Water and the influence of tidewater glaciers characterise the cord hydrography. A transect of six multi-corer stations, from the inner to the outer cord, was sampled in the late summers of 2005 to 2008 to study the distribution of living (rose Bengal stained) benthic foraminifera. Physical properties of the water masses were measured concurrently. In general, nearly the entire Kongsfjorden region was dominated by ubiquitous N. labradorica foraminiferal assemblage that successfully exploited the local food resources and thrived particularly well in the presence of Atlantic-derived Transformed Atlantic Water (TAW). Further, the annual investigation revealed that Kongsfjorden underwent large interannual hydrological changes during the studied years related to variable inflow of warm and saline Atlantic Water. This led to a strong fauna variability particularly at the two marginal sites: the glacially influenced inner cord and marine influenced shelf region. We also observed significant species shift from the 'cold' to 'warm' years and an expansion of widespread and sub-arctic to boreal species into the fjord.
Benthic foraminifera; Svalbard; Arctic fjord; Annual changes; Atlantic water