A baseline survey (2011) of epibenthos using bottom-trawl surveys found that the Barents Sea has at least 354 benthic taxa. Depth, temperature, salinity, and number of ice days determine four main megafaunal regions. The southwestern region is dominated by filter-feeders (sponges) in the inflow area of warm Atlantic water while the deeper trenches have detritivorous fauna (echinoderms). On the banks/slopes in the southeast and west regions, predators (sea stars, anemones. and snow crabs) prevail together with filtrating species (sea cucumber and bivalves) within a mosaic of banks and slopes. Plankton-feeding brittle stars are common in the northwestern and northeastern regions, with an increasing snow crab population in the northeast.
Increasing snow and red king crab populations and potentially expanding trawling activity (e.g. for scallops and demersal fish) are the main impacts to the benthic community. Species including Geodia sponges in the southwestern, basket stars Gorgonocephalus spp. in the northern areas, sea pen Umbellula encrinus on the shelf facing the Arctic Ocean, and sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa in shallow southern areas are particularly vulnerable to being impacted by trawling activities.
Threatened and declining habitats in the Barents Sea according to OSPAR: