Ecological contrasts across an Antarctic land-sea interface

May 9, 2021

first_imgWe report the composition of terrestrial, intertidal and shallow sublittoral faunal communities at sites around Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula. We examined primary hypotheses that the marine environment will have considerably higher species richness, biomass and abundance than the terrestrial, and that both will be greater than that found in the intertidal. We also compared ages and sizes of individuals of selected marine taxa between intertidal and subtidal zones to test the hypothesis that animals in a more stressed environment (intertidal) would be smaller and shorter lived. Species richness of intertidal and subtidal communities was found to be similar, with considerable overlap in composition. However, terrestrial communities showed no overlap with the intertidal, differing from previous reports, particularly from further north on the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Arc. Faunal biomass was variable but highest in the sublittoral. While terrestrial communities were depauperate with low biomass they displayed the highest overall abundance, with a mean of over 3 × 105 individuals per square metre. No significant differences in ages of intertidal and subtidal individuals of the same species were found, with bryozoan colonies of up to 4 years of age being present in the intertidal. In contrast with expectation and the limited existing literature we conclude that, while the Antarctic intertidal zone is clearly a suboptimal and highly stressful habitat, its faunal community can be well established and relatively diverse, and is not limited to short-term opportunists or waifs and strays.last_img

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