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Antarctic patterns of shallow subtidal habitat and inhabitants in Wilke’s Land
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by E Johnston, S Connell, Andrew Irving, A Pile, B Gillanders
Studies of east Antarctic marine assemblageson hard substrata are rare. In relation to sea-ice breakout, we assessed benthic patterns of habitat and inhabitants between islands and bays at each of two depths (6 and 12 m) across the Windmill Islands coast. Island sites experience sea-ice breakout in the austral spring, while bay sites typically retain sea-ice cover into the summer and in some places the cover is virtually permanent. Composition of assemblages differed between sheltered bays and exposed islands. Islands were dominated by macroalgae, which also varied with depth. Immediately below the ice–foot zone at 6 m, substratum space were monopolised by foliose red (Palmaria decipiens) and foliose brown (Desmarestia sp.) algae, whereas at 12 m large canopies of Himantothallus grandifolius was abundant. The understorey consisted of a mixture of turfs and encrusting red algae at 6 m, and coralline algae at 12 m. Sheltered bays hadl arge areas of sediment/algal complex and no canopy forming macroalgae. We found more sponges and hydroids in bays, and more brittle stars around islands. Experiments testing factors that covary with exposure and depth in Antarctica, such as light, sedimentation and ice scour are necessary to determine processes that maintain these striking patterns.