Name: Eivind Oug, NIVA, Bjørn Gulliksen, UNIS & Sabine Cochrane, Akvaplan-niva

Corresponding e-mail address:

Proposed Primary Site: Balsfjord and Malangen, northern Norway

Balsfjord and Malangen are two fjords situated in the vicinity of Tromsø, northern Norway.

Balsfjord (6920'N, 190'E) reaches approximately 40 km into the Norwegian mainland. The fjord has fairly shallow sills (10 and 35 m) and a maximum depth of 195 m in the central part of the fjord. The water masses are stratified from May to September due to summer heating and fresh-water runoff, but are almost homogeneous and subject to extensive vertical mixing from late autumn until the end of April. Large-scale advective exchanges of water masses, driven by local wind stress and the hydrophysical characteristics of the coastal water masses, may take place frequently. The fjord water is well oxygenated with oxygen levels not falling below 70 to 80% saturation in the bottom water. The basin water stays cold year round (1-4 C). The fjord stays ice-free during winter.

Malangen (69 30N, 18 20E) is about 50 km long, has a wide open connection to the sea and a sill depth of about 200 m outside the mouth of the fjord. It is divided in two fjord basins of 460 and 250 m depth, respectively. It receives freshwater inflow at the head of the fjord. The circulation is described as a three layer system, with an upper layer (0-30 m) dominated by down-fjord currents, an intermediate layer to sill depth with up-fjord currents and a bottom layer with weak currents. The water masses are well oxygenated all year round. The basin water is directly influenced by Atlantic water and has mean temperature of 6.5 C. The inner reaches of the fjord is generally ice-covered during winter, the main fjord stays ice-free.

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).


Balsfjord and Malangen are extremely well-studied fjords and as such, they fulfill the criteria of sufficient background data. However, they are not completely free from sewage effluent (as no place is). Therefore, when selecting a network of sampling stations for BIOMARE, some fjord sites completely remote from habitation will be included. These are not so well documented, but can be considered truly pristine (at least for our purposes).

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

Industrial pollution: None

Agricultural pollution: Farming is on a very small scale, with a limited use of fertilisers. Farming is restricted to small parts of total catchment areas. Most important farming is grass production, some growing of vegetables and small-scale milk cattle (usually between 6-20 head per farm).

Mining: None

Dumping: None

Dredging: None

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

Balsfjord (the municipality of Balsfjord): 6400. Mean population density 4.0 inh/km2. Population is declining the loss is 9.9 % in the period 1990-1999.

Note that this figure includes inland residents. The proportion of population on the shore is a fraction of this.

Malangen (estimated; averaging from three adjoining municipalities): < 4000. Mean population density 4-5 inh/km2. Population presumably declining. As above, this figure includes inland settlements. The shore population is sparse.

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

The population is mostly scattered and sewage is treated mostly by septic tanks. The residue is disposed of by the town authorities. The following figures estimate the maximum amount of effluent reaching the fjord complexes.

Approximately 1500-2000 p.e. of human effluent plus approximately 2000

3-4000 pe from the only industry in the area, a cheese factory is released into the entire Balsfjord complex and maximally 1000-1500 pe into Malangen.

The sampling stations selected for BIOMARE will include subsidiary or outer fjords where the direct effluent is minimal.

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

Commercial fishing is low. In some areas of Malangen, there is sporadic shrimp trawling and fishing with nets (cod, herring) and longlines. In Balsfjord there is no trawling, presumbably some fishing for cod and herring with nets.

Subsidiary fjords without fishing activities will be used for BIOMARE sampling.

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

Generally low tourist activity except for by-passers during summer months. There are no major tourist resorts in the area.

Year-round, the main local activities are hiking, off-track skiing, hunting and hobby-fishing, none of which are considered to pose any environmental threats.

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

The fjords represent typical coastal environments in northern Norway. The water masses are strongly influence by coastal waters and are subjected to large-scale advective episodes driven by meterological forces. Both fjords have been subjected to intensive studies of hydrography, water mass exchanges, plankton communities and particle sedimentation.

Reigstad, M. 2000. Plankton community and vertical flux of biogenic matter in north Norwegian fjords: Regulating factors, temporal and spatial variations. Doctoral thesis, University of Tromsø. 88 p + 6 papers.

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

Eilertsen, H.C., S. Falk-Petersen, C.C.E. Hopkins & K. Tande 1981. Ecological investigations on the plankton community of Balsfjorden, northern Norway. Program for the project, study area, topography, and physical environment. Sarsia 66: 25-34.

Eilertsen, H.C. & J.P. Taasen 1984. Investigations on the plankton community of Balsfjorden, northern Norway. The phytoplankton 1976-1978. Environmental factors, dynamics of growth, and primary production. Sarsia 69: 1-15.

Evans, R.A., B. Gulliksen & O.K. Sandnes 1980. The effect of sedimentation on rocky-bottom organisms in Balsfjord, Northern Norway. Pp 603-607 in Freeland, H.J., Farmer, D.M. & Levings, C. (eds.). Fjord Oceanography. Plenum Publ. Corp. New York, 715pp.

Finne, K. & H.G. Gade 1990. A hydrographic description and qualitative analysis of physical processes in the Balsfjord based on data collected during the years 1980-1988. Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen. 20 pp.

Gulliksen, B. 1982. Sedimentation close to a near vertical rocky wall in Balsfjorden, northern Norway. Sarsia 67: 21-27.

Hopkins, C.C.E., P.E. Grotnes & J.-E. Eliassen 1989. Organization of a fjord community at 70 north: the pelagic food web in Balsfjord, northern Norway. Rapports et procés-verbaux des réunions. Conseil international pour l'exploration de la mer 188: 146-153.

Reigstad, M. & P. Wassmann 1996. Importance of advection for pelagic-benthic coupling in north Norwegian fjords. Sarsia 80: 245-257.

Reigstad, M. 2000. Plankton community and vertical flux of biogenic matter in north Norwegian fjords: Regulating factors, temporal and spatial variations. Doctoral thesis, University of Tromsø. 88 p + six published papers.

Sargent, J.R., C.C.E. Hopkins, J.V. Seiring & A. Youngson 1983. Partial characterization of organic material in surface sediments from Balsfjorden, northern Norway, in relation to its origin and nutritional value for sediment-ingesting animals. Marine Biology 76: 87-94.



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: X (sparse)

Mud: X


Rock: X (large rocky wall down to 60m depth in outer Balsfjord*)

Sand: X (mostly shell-sand in outer areas of Malangen)

Mud: X

* note: at this site, quadrats at 10, 20 and 30 m depth have been monitored by underwater photography since 1976 (B. Gulliksen).

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

To our knowledge no important habitats are missing. The fjords represent all types of habitats from outer coastal waters to head of fjords, shallow and deep, fresh-water influenced and fully saline, stable bedrocks and a range of sediment types

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.


Cnidaria, Polychaeta, Crustacea, Mollusca, Bryozoa, Echinodermata,

Falk-Petersen, I.-B. 1982. Breeding season and egg morphology of echinoderms in Balsfjorden, northern Norway. Sarsia 67: 215-221.

Grieg, J.A. 1903. Oversikt over det nordlige Norges Echinodermer. Bergens Mus. Aarbog 1902(1): 1-38.

Hopkins, C.C.E & E.M. Nilssen 1990. Population biology of the deep-water prawn (Pandalus borealis) in Balsfjord, northern Norway: I. Abundance, mortality, and growth, 1979-1983. Journal du Conseil international pour l'exploration de la mer 47: 148-166.

Jørgensen, L.L., B. Gulliksen & E.M. Nilssen (manuscript). Rocky bottom fauna in Balsfjorden (Northern Norway) studied by means of suction sampling. Submitted Sarsia.

Mathisen, O. 1926. Hydroids from northern Norway. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 49(4): 1-40.

Nordgaard, O. 1918. Bryozoa from the arctic regions. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 40(1): 1-99.

Oug, E. 2000. The marine benthic fauna in the region of Tromsø, northern Norway, with particular reference to bristle worms (Annelida: Polychaeta). Doctoral thesis, University of Tromsø. 36 pp + 7 papers.

Oug, E. 2000. Soft-bottom macrofauna in the high-latitude ecosystem of Balsfjord, northern Norway: species composition, community structure and temporal variability. - Sarsia 85: 1-13

Oug, E. 2001. Polychaetes from intertidal rocky and sedimentary habitats in the region of Tromsø, northern Norway. - Sarsia 86: 75-83.

Sandnes, O.K. & B. Gulliksen 1980. Monitoring and manipulation of a sublittoral hard-bottom biocoenosis in Balsfjord, northern Norway. Helgoländer Meeresunters. 33: 467-472.

Soot-Ryen, T. 1924. Faunistische Untersuchungen im Ramfjorde. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 45(6): 1-106.

Stephensen, K. 1935-42. The Amphipoda of N. Norway and Spitsbergen with adjacent waters. Part 1-4. Tromsø Mus. Skrifter 3: 1-140 (1935), 141-278 (1938), 279-362 (1940), 363-526 (1942).

Støp-Bowitz, C. 1948b. Sur les polychètes arctiques des famillies des Glycériens, des Ophéliens, des Scalibregmiens et des Flabelligériens. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 66(2): 1-58.


(various groups)

Schmidt, P. 1972. Zonierung und jahreszeitliche Fluktuationen der interstitiellen Fauna in Sandstränden des Gebiets von Tromsø (Norwegen). Mikrofauna Meeresbodens 12: 79-164.




Copepoda, Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Euphausiacea, Chaetognatha.

There are numerous publications from the ecosystem studies in Balsfjorden covering zooplankton groups. Most are referred to by:

Hopkins, C.C.E., P.E. Grotnes & J.-E. Eliassen 1989. Organization of a fjord community at 70 north: the pelagic food web in Balsfjord, northern Norway. Rapports et procés-verbaux des réunions. Conseil international pour l'exploration de la mer 188: 146-153.

Hopkins, C.C.E. & B. Gulliksen 1978. Diurnal vertical migration and zooplankton-epibenthos relationships in a north Norwegian fjord. Pp. 271-278 in: McLusky, D.S. & A.J. Berry (eds). The physiology and behaviour of marine organisms. Proc. 12th EMBS. Pergamon, London.

Falkenhaug, T. 1997. Studies of spatio-temporal variations in a zooplankton community. Interactions between vertical behaviour and physical processes. Doctoral thesis, University of Tromsø. 45 p + 4 papers (copepods and ctenophores in Malangen).


Green, brown. and red macroalgae

Quantitative data from Malangen and Balsfjord exists, but are mostly unpublished. Parts of the data are reported in:

Oug, E., T.E. Lein, B. Holte, K. Ormerod & K. Næs 1985. Basisundersøkelse i Tromsøsund og Nordbotn 1983. Bløtbunnsundersøkelser, fjæreundersøkelser og bakteriologi. Fagrapport. Statlig prog. forurensningsovervåk., report 173b/84. SFT/NIVA. 160 pp.


Eilertsen, H.C. B. Schei & J.P. Taasen 1981. Investigations on the plankton community of Balsfjorden, northern Norway. The phytoplankton 1976-1978. Abundance, species composition, and succession. Sarsia 66: 129-141.

Hegseth, E.N., H. Svendsen & C.H. von Quillfeldt 1995. Phytoplankton in fjords and coastal waters of northern Norway: environmental conditions and dynamics of the spring bloom. Pp. 45-72 in: H.R. Skjoldal, C. Hopkins, K.E. Erikstad & H.P. Leinaas (eds). Ecology of fjords and coastal waters. Elsevier.


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

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


Kiær, H. 1906. Om dyrelivet i Balsfjorden og denne fjords udløb til havet. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 28: 13-50.

Soot-Ryen, T. 1924. Faunistische Untersuchungen im Ramfjorde. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 45(6): 1-106.

Schneider, J. Sparre 1891. Undersøgelser af dyrelivet i de arktiske fjorde. IV. Mollusca og Crustacea indsamlede i Malangenfjord 1887. Tromsø Mus. Årshefter 14: 75-122.


Oug, E. 2000. Soft-bottom macrofauna in the high-latitude ecosystem of Balsfjord, northern Norway: species composition, community structure and temporal variability. Sarsia 85: 1-13 (10-year monitoring of soft-bottom macrofauna)


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

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?

Presently no conservation of marine habitats. Intertidal mud-flats in Balsfjord (Sørkjosen) are protected as resting/feeding sites for migratory vading birds according to Ramsar convention.

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).

How accessible is the location? Easily accessible from Tromsø by car and boat (< 1 hour).

Is it limited seasonally (e.g. not accessible in winter)? Not as such, but the inner parts of the fjords are generally ice-covered in winter.

Is it accessible by car or by boat (indicate means of transport and distance from laboratory facilities in km)? Longest distances ca. 100 km by boat

What is the status of local facilities:-

Laboratory: Near campus of the University of Tromsø and the Polar Environmental Centre, both of which offer good biological laboratories.

Boats: Three research vessels are owned by the University of Tromsø, one of which is ice-going

Are these facilities available for guest researchers? Yes

What facilities are there for SCUBA diving? Good facilities air compressor available on all the vessels. Certificates and "check-out" dive necessary.

What housing is available? Hotels and guest houses in Tromsø. University accommodation periodically available for students, depending on availability.

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

A variety of national and international funds are used for biodiversity research involving this site.

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.

The list of persons carrying out research at the site is rather long, and not available at the present time. Contact persons are Bjørn Gulliksen (UNIS/University of Tromsø) and Eivind Oug (NIVA). Akvaplan-niva in Tromsø also has carried out a number of biodiversity investigations in the area.



Please use this section to add any additional supporting comments, for example what do you think is special about your site from the biodiversity point of view, why is it important to monitor biodiversity there, and what is the public awareness of this?

Balsfjord has been the subject of a multi-disciplinary research programme studying water masses, plankton dynamics, particle sedimentation, and commercial fish and shell-fish species since the mid-1970s. The ultimate aim of the studies has been to provide quantitative descriptions of the biological production and the energy flow within the fjord system. The studies have demonstrated that most biological production is mineralised in the pelagic food chains. The development and fate of vernal blooms, the transfer of nutrient matter and energy in the pelagic system, and the nutrient fluxes to the bottom, however, are significantly influenced by the advective exchanges of water masses introducing and removing plankton in the fjord. The studies have provided an amount of data on ecosystem funtioning and also estimates of the nutrient input to the benthos which is important for understanding composition, abundances and structure of species assemblages. To some extent, parallel studies have been conducted in Malangen allowing for a comparison between the systems in the fjords.