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Antarctic Research Series



  • Ecology—Research—Antarctica—Antarctic Peninsula Region

Index Terms

  • 4207 Oceanography: General: Arctic and Antarctic oceanography
  • 4804 Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Benthic processes/benthos
  • 4815 Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Ecosystems, structure and dynamics



Marine benthic populations in Antarctica: Patterns and processes

A. Clarke

Sampling difficulties have meant that there have been more studies of population patterns than of processes in Antarctic benthos, but a number of generalizations can be made. Benthic marine invertebrates in Antarctica have species/abundance relationships similar to those found in temperate or tropical regions but, several striking examples of gigantism notwithstanding, most species are small. Diversity is generally high, particularly in comparison with the Arctic, although some taxa (for example molluscs) are low in diversity when compared with temperate or tropical faunas. Most species produce larger eggs than related non-polar species, and embryonic development is typically slow. Although the Southern Ocean contains fewer taxa reproducing by feeding pelagic larvae than elsewhere, such larvae are by no means absent. Somewhat paradoxically, these larvae are often released in winter. Post-juvenile growth rates are typically slow, and recruitment rates are slow and episodic. The low temperature slows many biological processes, but other factors are also involved. Ice is an important factor in many biological processes, and the recently described sub-decadal variability in the extent of winter sea-ice is likely to exert a profound influence on benthic ecological processes in Antarctica.

Citation: Clarke, A. (1996), Marine benthic populations in Antarctica: Patterns and processes, in Foundations for Ecological Research West of the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarct. Res. Ser., vol. 70, edited by E. E. Hofmann, R. M. Ross, and L. B. Quetin, pp. 373–388, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/AR070p0373.

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