Paalme, T.; Torn, K.; Martin, G.; Kotta, I., and Suursaar, Ü., 2020. Littoral benthic communities under effect of heat wave and upwelling events in NE Baltic Sea. In: Malvárez, G. and Navas, F. (eds.), Global Coastal Issues of 2020. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 95, pp. 133–137. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

The Baltic Sea forms a dynamic marine habitat with strong latitudinal and longitudinal gradients in many essential environmental variables. This environmental setting controls pelagic and benthic biodiversity by providing very narrow ecological niches for species displaying varying tolerances to environmental factors such as salinity, temperature and turbidity. In this study, changes in benthic communities in relation to extreme weather conditions, such as the occurrence of heat waves (HW) and coastal upwelling (CU) events, were analyzed and described in the north-eastern Baltic Sea. In the summer of 2018, the maximum water temperatures in the studied coastal sea sections varied between 20 and 25°C at 5 m depth whereby recorded values were up 7°C higher compared to that of the long-term mean. However, daily water temperature showed remarkable variation due to upwelling events occurring on multiple occasions with extreme temperature shifts of 14°C being recorded within a period of a few days. In the NE Baltic Sea, salinity gradient is up to 7 PSU in outer areas and it falls to zero in bays with riverine impact. Salinity has significant importance on benthic species abundance, richness and distribution. A rapid increase in salinity was observed during upwelling events. Extraordinarily, heat wave accompanied with upwelling event caused the increase of zoobenthic biodiversity and species-specific response of abundances. In contrast, the effect on macrovegetation species composition and proportion of opportunistic species was rather negative.

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