Antarctic Science

IX SCAR International Biology Symposium

Antarctic macro-zoobenthic communities: a review and an ecological classification

Julian Gutta1

a1 Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Columbusstrasse, 27568 Bremerhaven, Germany


A partly new classification of shelf inhabiting Antarctic macro-zoobenthic communities is proposed in this review. The main components are two core communities. One is dominated by sessile suspension feeders supported by food entrained in strong near-bottom currents. Variants of this community include assemblages without sponges, those that prefer sponge spicule mats as substratum and predator-driven systems. The second core community is dominated by the infauna and mobile epifauna and controlled by vertical phytodetritus flux and soft sediments. This community is obviously restricted to areas with low current velocity, particularly in areas that are sheltered due to a heterogeneous coastal and sea floor topography. In addition, in physically controlled shallow water a small number of representatives of all these ecological guilds can become very abundant. Between both core communities a broad range of mixed assemblages exists that can be explained by a gradient in environmental conditions and trophic amensalism. A concept is also proposed for the ecological functioning of systems with extremely low abundances within ecological guilds, such as those that occur under and close to ice shelves, which cannot satisfactorily be explained by trophic limitation. These extremely low abundances may result from a shift during ontogenesis from a state with predominantly mismatched environmental conditions and ecological demands of young recruits, to a state where a match occurs.

(Received February 17 2006)

(Accepted August 18 2006)