Institute: Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAS), Sopot 81-712, Powstancow Warszawy 55, Poland

Contact person: Jan Marcin Weslawski

e-mail address:

Proposed Primary Site:

Hornsund, Spitsbergen (77° 00' N, 15°00' E)


Sovereignty of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) was given to Norway in 1920, by Paris Treaty. Svalbard is administrered by the Norwegian government, via the governor of Svalbard. All countries that have signed the Treaty are eligible to carry on research and other activities on equal rights with Norwegian administrators.

Polish Polar Station in Hornsund, the only permamently inhabited site in the area, originally was established in 1957, during International Geophysical Year as a research station under protection of the Governor of Svalbard for some 15 persons. Polish Academy of Sciences who owns the facilities expanded the the facilities to host summer groups up to 15 persons and 10 members of the wintering, whole year team.

Hornsund is an medium size fjord (30km length, 12-15km wide) with a maximum depth of 260m, and weak sill in the entrance. Tidal glaciers form large part of the inner fjord basin coastline. Fjord is heavily influenced by cold Sorkapp Current carrying Arctic waters from the eastern part of Svalbard archipelago while occasional intrusions of Atlantic waters are observed from the West Spitsbergen Current (arm of North Atlantic Current) carrying relatively warm waters.


PRISTINESS: Primary sites should be as free as possible from anthropogenic stressors, and natural stressors atypical of the region (e.g. reduced salinity, high turbidity).

List potential sources of pollution that are likely to impinge on the site:

Industrial pollution: none

Agricultural pollution: none

Mining: none

Dumping: none

Dredging: none

In relation to contaminant levels in other Arctic areas, the general level of contaminants in the Hornsund area can be considered as background (see AMAP 1998).

What is the human population of the site in total and per unit area?

Estimated average population of 15 in Hornsund (may be 10 in winter, up to 25 in summer).

Estimate 10 persons per km2 in most concentrated area.

What is the average population growth per year?

No growth in permanent residents.

How is sewage disposed of? If possible give an estimate of the quantity and quality of the output.

Small scale biological filtering system treats all the waste water produced at the station. All solid garbage is stored in metal drums and taken away during re-supply operation in June each year. Amount of garbage/wastewater is related to the number of people working in the Research Station (average 15 persons per year)

Describe the extent of commercial fishing in the area. Please specify the kinds of gear used (trawling, seine netting, lobster pots etc.)

None in the the fjord, some shrimp trawling in the outer shelf.

Give an account of tourist activities in the area (how many tourists per year; what do they do?).

The only permitted tourist activity is cruise-ships. Passengers are allowed on land for 2 hours, during which time no garbage or other waste is allowed to be dumped. Approx. 10 cruise ships and occasional research vessels arrive to Hornsund each year.


Provide evidence that there are no natural stressors such as high turbidity or reduced salinity that are atypical of the region.

The salinity and turbidity gradient that exists along the fjord, from the actively calving glacier to the more typically marine fjord mouth is absolutely typical for high-latitude fjords along the west coast of Spitsbergen.

Give references to any chemical or physical data that support the claim that this is a pristine site.

The chemical data in Urbanski et al. 1980, seen in comparison with other areas in the Arctic (AMAP 1998) show that contaminant levels are generally close to background. Long-distance transported contamination (polar accumulation) should be seen as an important element in biodiversity research, rather than detracting from it.

AMAP 1998. AMAP assessment report: Arctic pollution issues. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP). Oslo (Norway). 859 pp.

Urbanski J, Neugebauer E, Spacjer R, Falkowska L 1980 Physico chemical characteristics of the waters of Hornsund fjord on South West Spitsbergen. Pol. Pol. Research 1, 43-52

General physical data and information are given in:

Swerpel S 1985 The Hornsund fjord, water masses. Polish Polar Research 6, 475-496

HABITATS: The site should comprise a mosaic of habitats in a well-defined area that are representative of the region.

List the range of habitats present at the site:


Rock: X

Sand: No sandy beaches as such, but some smaller coves with sand/shellsand. This is typical of Svalbard.

Mud: Muds between boulders, also some muddy areas in the inner part.


Rock: X

Sand: X

Mud: X including glacio-marine deposits

Seagrass beds: not ‘seagrass’ but typical rocky-shore macroalgal assemblages

How representative is this site of its region (i.e. what regional habitats are missing)?

None that the proposers are aware of.


BACKGROUND INFORMATION: The site should already be well-studied (i.e. biodiversity studies should not rely entirely on new research).

For what groups of organisms are comprehensive inventories available? Please list major taxa in each category below, and list publications.

An overview of biological knowledge in the Hornsund is given in

Five volumes of tri-lingual "Atlas of Southern Spitsbergen marine fauna"

Klekowski RZ & Weslawski JM 1990 "Atlas of the marine fauna of Southern Spitsbergen"

Vol. 1 Vertebrates. Ossolineum, Wroclaw, 308pp

Vol. 2.1 Invertebrates (Crustacea, Mollusca), Gdansk 1991, 550pp

Vol. 2.2 Invertebrates (Polychaeta, Ascidiacea, Echinodermata), Gdansk 1992, 213pp

Vol. 2.3 Invertebrates (Parasites, Cirripedia, Anthozoa, Bryozoa), Gdansk 1997, 152pp

Vol. 3 Marine Flora (phytoplankton, macrophytobenthos), Gdansk, 1995, 516pp


All the major macrobenthic taxa are present in the Hornsund. In the inner part of the fjord, the fauna is dominated by polychaete worms and bivalve molluscs that tolerate a high sedimentation environment. These assemblages are also subject to ice scouring. In the outer parts of the fjord, most taxa are represented within the faunal assemblages. The inner parts are dominated by shallow-living forms, while the outer part is populated by larger, deep-living organisms that are characteristic of stable, high-latitude areas.


Klekowski RZ, Weslawski JM "Atlas of the marine fauna of southern Spitsbergen, op cit.

Weslawski JM 1990 Distribution and ecology of coastal waters Amphipoda from Southern Spitsbergen. Pol. Arch. Hydrobiol. 37, 503-519



Szymelfenig M, Kwasniewski S, Weslawski JM 1995 Intertidal zone of Svalbard 2. Meiobenthos density and occurrence. Polar Biology 15, 137-141




Kwasniewski S 1990 A note on the zooplankton of the Hornsund fjord and its seasonal changes. Oceanografia 12, 7-27

Weslawski JM, Kwasniewski S, Wiktor J 1990 Winter in a Svalbard fjord ecosystem. Arctic, 44, 115-123

Weslawski JM, Jankowski A, Kwasniewski S, Ryg M 1991 Summer zooplankton and hydrology in two Spitsbergen fjords. Polish Polar Research 12, 445-460


Klekowski RZ & Weslawski JM 1995 Atlas of the marine flora of southern Spitsbergen. Vol. 3 Marine Flora (phytoplankton, macrophytobenthos), Gdansk, 516pp


Klekowski RZ & Weslawski JM 1995 Atlas of the marine flora of southern Spitsbergen. Vol. 3 Marine Flora (phytoplankton, macrophytobenthos), Gdansk, 516pp

Sympagic fauna

Weslawski, J. M., Kwasniewski, S., Wiktor, J. & Zajaczkowski, M. 1993: Observations on the fast ice biota in the fjords of Spitsbergen. Polish Polar Res. 14, 331-343.

List any other publications relating specifically to the biodiversity or environment at the site.

Jazdzewski K, De Broyer C, Weslawski JM 1995 A comparison of the Amphipoda faunal diversity in two polar fjords; Admiralty Bay, King George Island (Antarctic) and Hornsund, Spitsbergen (Arctic). Pol. Arch. Hydrobiol. 42, 367-384


List publications relating to historical/time-series data at the site.

Weslawski JM, Adamski P 1987 Cold and warm years in South Spitsbergen coastal marine ecosystem. Polish Polar Research 8, 95-106

Weslawski JM, Kwasniewski S 1990 The consequences of climate fluctuations for the food web in Svalbard coastal waters. Proc. 24th EMBS Aberdeen, Univ. Press, 281-295


Is biodiversity information available in electronic form? If so, what is the nature of the database (CD-ROM, web-site)?

Some of the distribution maps and species lists are available on the web page of IOPAS ( This site and the database are currently under development.

PROTECTION STATUS: The pristine nature of the site should be protected by legislation if it is to be a "flagship site" for future monitoring.

What conservation legislation (national, European, international) is currently in place, how well is it implemented and how long will it last?

Hornsund fjord is situated in the center of South Spitsbergen National Park, under protection of the Governor of Svalbard.


FACILITIES: The infrastructure for biodiversity research should be available. There should also be a national commitment in terms of financing and scientific activity (i.e funding should not be entirely dependent on the success of any future EU programme).

The appropriate infrastructure is available (laboratory facilities, some holding facilities for fresh material). Facilities for collecting also are available.

The services offered Polish Academy of Sciences in Polish Polar Station:

- Power generation and water supply.

How accessible is the location?

Accessible by helicopter from Longyearbyen year round or ship in navigational season.


Is it limited seasonally (e.g. not accessible in winter)?

No, except for exceptional circumstances.

Is it accessible by car or by boat (indicate means of transport and distance from laboratory facilities in km)?

Boat access almost year-round (depending on ice-conditions), otherwise by helicopter from Longyearbyen (some 200km distance)


What is the status of local facilities:

Laboratory: modest

Boats: Charter possibilities by arrangement, zodiacs available

Are these facilities available for guest researchers?


What facilities are there for SCUBA diving?

Compressors, no other special facilities ready by now

What housing is available?

Enough for up to 25 persons, food and lodging provided by PAS,

From that number up to 6 places available for marine biologists.

List the sources of funding currently in place specifically for biodiversity research at this site (from where and how much).

International institutes (including, UK, USA and Norway) provide independent national funding.

Within Poland, funding is obtained from:

to maintain and run the Polish Polar Station on Svalbard)

List by name the persons currently involved in biodiversity research at this site, their roles and the percentage of their time spent on this research.

Weslawski JM - Polish coordinator of biodiversity research at the site, 30% of time

Jazdżewski K - crustacean taxonomist

Kwasniewski S - zooplankton, copepods communities research

Wiktor J - phytoplankton

Wlodarska-Kowalczuk M - macrobenthos communities



Hornsund, the southernmost of Spitsbergen fjords is the only Arctic fjord with relatively easy access. Other accessible fjords of the western coast are under strong Atlantic water influence, while the Hornsund is washed by cold Sorkapp current, and its fauna is of more Arctic character when compared to adjacent areas. It gives an unique opportunity to study the moving border between two contrasting zoogeographical provinces (Subarctic and Arctic). We propose Hornsund as a twin-site to Kongsfjorden, both representing best the European Arctic marine ecosystems and combined offering great potential for biodiversity monitoring.