Coastal zones are facing climate-driven change coupled with escalating eutrophication. With increasing shifts in hydrographic conditions during the past few decades, a focal task i to understand how environmental drivers affect zoobenthic communities, which play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning.
By using long-term data, spanning 40 yr (1973 to 2013) in the northern Baltic Sea, we showed a disparity in zoobenthic responses with pronounced changes in community composition and a trend towards decreased biomass in sheltered areas, while biomasses
increased in exposed areas of the coastal zone. We used generalized additive modeling to show that bottom oxygen saturation, sea surface temperature and organic load of the sediments wer the main environmental drivers behind contrasting patterns in biomass progression. Oxygen saturation alone explained over one third of the deviation in the biomass developments in sheltered areas, while exposed areas were mainly limited by organic content of the sediments.
We analyzed high-resolution climate-scenario simulations, following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios for the Baltic Sea region in combination with different nutrient load scenarios,
for the end of the 21st century. The scenario outcomes showed negative trends in bottom oxyge concentrations throughout the coastal and archipelago zone along with overall increasing temperatures and primary production, and decreasing salinity.
Our results suggest that these projecte future conditions will strengthen the observed pattern in decreasing zoobenthic production in the immediate coastal zones. Moreover, the potential intensification of unfavorable conditions expanding seaward may lead to an expansion of biomass loss to more exposed sites.
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