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The first comprehensive description of the biodiversity and biogeography of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic intertidal communities

Griffiths, Huw James; Waller, Catherine Louise


Huw James Griffiths


Aim To describe the distribution of biodiversity and biogeographical patterns of intertidal organisms in southern temperate and polar waters. We hypothesized that there would be differences in community structure between the Antarctic, which is most affected by ice, and the sub-Antarctic and other neighbouring regions. We also hypothesized that rafting and West Wind Drift will be the significant drivers of biogeographical patterns. Additionally, the size, age, isolation, volcanic or glacial history of a region and the presence of large, beach dwelling, mammals and birds would all play a role in determining the level of biodiversity observed. Location South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Southern Ocean. Methods We examined all available intertidal records from the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic with additional data from neighbouring regions for comparison and context. We compiled 3902 occurrences of 1416 species of high southern latitude intertidal organisms from 229 locations and used PRIMER 6 to perform multivariate statistical analyses. Results The Antarctic and sub-Antarctic are shown to be distinct biogeographical regions, with patterns driven by a small number of widely distributed species. These wide-ranging molluscs and macroalgae dominate the biogeographical structure of the Southern Ocean intertidal, most likely as a result of rafting in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. East Antarctic intertidal habitats are potentially isolated by the Ross and Weddell Sea ice shelves but represent a great unknown in this biogeographical scheme. Main Conclusions The view that the Antarctic intertidal is a lifeless desert does not hold true, with Antarctic Peninsula intertidal communities being richer and more diverse than those in southern South America and the sub-Antarctic islands. Changing conditions in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic intertidal mean that a representative baseline is needed (acquired through standardized and quantitative sampling) to assess future changes and to detect any invasive species.


Griffiths, H. J., & Waller, C. L. (2016). The first comprehensive description of the biodiversity and biogeography of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic intertidal communities. Journal of Biogeography, 43(6), 1143-1155.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 10, 2016
Publication Date Jun 1, 2016
Deposit Date Jun 20, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jun 20, 2016
Journal Journal of biogeography
Print ISSN 0305-0270
Electronic ISSN 1365-2699
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 6
Pages 1143-1155
Keywords Antarctic intertidal communities; Sub-Antarctic intertidal communities; Biodiversity; Biogeography
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an open access article published in Journal of biogeography, v.43, issue 6, 2016.
Contract Date Jun 20, 2016


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Copyright Statement
© 2016 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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