Biodiversity and habitat assessment of coastal benthic communities in a sub-arctic industrial harbor area


Coastal ecosystems face increasing anthropogenic pressures worldwide and their management requires a solid assessment and understanding of the cumulative impacts from human activities. This study evaluates the spatial variation of benthic macrofaunal communities, sediments, and heavy metals in the sub-Arctic coastal ecosystems around Sept-Îles (Québec, Canada)—a major port area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Physical sediment properties varied in the studied area, with a general sandy-silty profile except for specific locations in Baie des Sept Îles where higher organic matter and heavy metal concentrations were detected. Macrofaunal assemblages were evaluated for two taxa size classes (organisms > 0.5 mm and > 1 mm) and linked to habitat parameters using regression models. Communities of smaller organisms showed signs of perturbation for one assemblage close to industrial activities at Baie des Sept Îles, with an increased number of tolerant and opportunistic species, contrasting to neighboring regions whose compositions were similar to other ecosystems in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This study enhances the understanding of sub-Arctic benthic communities and will contribute to monitoring programs for industrial harbor ecosystems.

Elliot Dreujou
Elliot Dreujou
Marine ecology researcher