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Vulnerability of Antarctic shallow invertebrate-dominated ecosystems


Clark, GF and Raymond, B and Riddle, MJ and Stark, JS and Johnston, EL, Vulnerability of Antarctic shallow invertebrate-dominated ecosystems, Austral Ecology, 40, (4) pp. 482-491. ISSN 1442-9985 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2015 Ecological Society of Australia

DOI: doi:10.1111/aec.12237


Human impacts threaten not only species, but also entire ecosystems. Ecosystems under stress can collapse or transition into different states, potentially reducing biodiversity at a variety of scales. Here we examine the vulnerability of Antarctic shallow invertebrate-dominated ecosystems, which may be threatened for several reasons.These unique shallow-water communities mostly consist of dark-adapted invertebrates, and rely on sea ice to create low-light marine environments. Climate change is likely to cause early breakout of seasonal sea ice in parts of Antarctica, which will dramatically increase the amount of light reaching shallow seabed. This is predicted to result in ecological regime shifts, in which invertebrate-dominated communities are replaced by macroalgal beds. Habitat for these endemic Antarctic ecosystems is globally rare, and the fragmented nature of their distribution along Antarctic coast increases their sensitivity to change. Concurrently, human activities in Antarctica are concentrated in areas where these habitats occur, compounding potential impacts. While there are clear mechanisms of threat to these ecosystems, lack of knowledge about their spatial distribution obscures predictions of potential ecosystem loss, and the likelihood of recovery. In this paper we describe these ecosystems, their association with the environment and the reasons for their vulnerability.We estimate their spatial distribution around Antarctica using sea ice and bathymetric data, and apply the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Ecosystems criteria to assess their vulnerability. Best available data suggest that shallow ice-covered ecosystems are likely Near Threatened to Vulnerable in places, although the magnitude of risk is spatially variable and requires additional data to strengthen the assessment.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biodiversity, climate change, invertebrate, light, marine, sea ice
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
UTAS Author:Raymond, B (Dr Ben Raymond)
ID Code:105961
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:30
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2016-01-21
Last Modified:2017-10-31

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