Distribution and characteristics of marine habitats in a subpolar bay based on hydroacoustics and bed shear stress estimates—Potter Cove, King George Island, Antarctica
Marine habitats worldwide are increasingly pressurized by climate change, especially along the Antarctic Peninsula. Well-studied areas in front of rapidly retreating tidewater glaciers like Potter Cove are representative for similar coastal environments and, therefore, shed light on habitat formation and development on not only a local but also regional scale. The objective of this study was to provide insights into habitat distribution in Potter Cove, King George Island, Antarctica, and to evaluate the associated environmental processes. Furthermore, an assessment concerning the future development of the habitats is provided. To describe the seafloor habitats in Potter Cove, an acoustic seabed discrimination system (RoxAnn) was used in combination with underwater video images and sediment samples. Due to the absence of wave and current measurements in the study area, bed shear stress estimates served to delineate zones prone to sediment erosion. On the basis of the investigations, two habitat classes were identified in Potter Cove, namely soft-sediment and stone habitats that, besides influences from sediment supply and coastal morphology, are controlled by sediment erosion. A future expansion of the stone habitat is predicted if recent environmental change trends continue. Possible implications for the Potter Cove environment, and other coastal ecosystems under similar pressure, include changes in biomass and species composition.