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Volume 2016, Article ID 1982534, 14 pages
Research Article

Low Density of Top Predators (Seabirds and Marine Mammals) in the High Arctic Pack Ice

1Laboratory for Polar Ecology (PolE), 1367 Ramillies, Belgium
2Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
3MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany

Received 31 December 2015; Revised 16 June 2016; Accepted 18 July 2016

Academic Editor: Pablo M. Vergara

Copyright © 2016 Claude R. Joiris et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The at-sea distribution of top predators, seabirds and marine mammals, was determined in the high Arctic pack ice on board the icebreaker RV Polarstern in July to September 2014. In total, 1,620 transect counts were realised, lasting 30 min each. The five most numerous seabird species represented 74% of the total of 15,150 individuals registered: kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, puffin Fratercula arctica, Ross’s gull Rhodostethia rosea, and little auk Alle alle. Eight cetacean species were tallied for a total of 330 individuals, mainly white-beaked dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris and fin whale Balaenoptera physalus. Five pinniped species were represented by a total of 55 individuals and the polar bear Ursus maritimus was represented by 12 individuals. Four main geographical zones were identified: from Tromsø to the outer marginal ice zone (OMIZ), the Arctic pack ice (close pack ice, CPI), the end of Lomonosov Ridge off Siberia, and the route off Siberia and northern Norway. Important differences were detected between zones, both in species composition and in individual abundance. Low numbers of species and high proportion of individuals for some of them can be considered to reflect very low biodiversity. Numbers encountered in zones 2 to 4 were very low in comparison with other European Arctic seas. The observed differences showed strong patterns.