Open Access

Comparative characteristics of some ecosystems of the upper regions of the shelf in tropical, temperate and Arctic waters

  • A. N. Golikov1 and
  • O. A. Scarlato1
Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen24:BF01609513


1. The distribution of biocoenoses in the upper shelf parts of temperate and tropical regions in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, in upper boreal Atlantic waters and in the high latitudes near Franz Josef Land has been investigated employing the quantitative diving method.

2. In bionomically analogous parts of temperate and cold waters of the Northern hemisphere, parallelism in the distribution of biocoenoses can be observed. The leading (dominant) forms are substituted by vicarious species. A series of biocoenoses in these waters corresponds to tropical biocoenoses located at similar depths and on similar grounds. Reef-forming corals, dominant in many tropical biocoenoses, are replaced by macrophytes, especially in cold and temperate waters (convergency on a larger scale).

3. The biomass of bottom biocoenoses attains maximum values in tropical waters and decreases regularly towards the high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean.

4. Population density is maximum in biocoenoses of temperate latitudes; it decreases more or less equally in tropical and Arctic waters. The ratio of the quantity of species to population density per 1 m2 of bottom surface area is maximum in tropical and Arctic biocoenoses and diminishes considerably in temperate waters.

5. The geographical distribution of biocoenoses on similar grounds and at equal depths depends (a) in tropical waters upon the direction of prevalent currents and upon the degree of isolation of island shelves from the ancient continental shelf areas with diverse and abundant populations; (b) in temperate waters, upon the temperature regime of the surface waters (heat exchange between sea and atmosphere; influence of the prevalent water currents); (c) in Arctic waters, upon the solidity and constancy of the ice cover.

6. In tropical and temperate waters, maximum biomass, maximum population density and greatest species diversity are observed at depths ranging from 0 to 10 m, in Arctic waters from about 18 to 25 m, due to ice conditions in the shoals which are unfavourable for life.

7. In all areas investigated, the distribution of biocoenoses reveals a distinct vertical zonation. The zonation is caused in tropical waters (on identical grounds), by the degree of light penetration and by hydrodynamic peculiarities of different layers of the surface water mass; in temperate waters by differences in the thermal regime of the layers of the surface water masses; in the Arctic waters by the degree of light penetration, by the mechanical influence of ice, especially of icebergs, and by the mode of ice conditions prevailing over different depths.