Drivers of colonization and succession in polar benthic macro- and microalgal communities

Gabriela Laura Campana, Katharina Zacher 4 , Anna Fricke, Markus Molis 7 , Angela Wulff 8 , María Liliana Quartino and Christian Wiencke 4
  • 1 Departamento de Ciencias del Mar, Instituto Antártico Argentino, Cerrito 1248 (1010AAZ), Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2 CONICET, Rivadavia 1917 (1033AAJ), Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 3 Departamento de Ciencias Básicas (PIEA), Universidad Nacional de Luján, Rutas 5 y 7 (6700), Luján, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 4 Department Seaweed Biology, Section Functional Ecology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 5 Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Fahrenheitstr. 6, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 6 Bremen International Graduate School for Marine Sciences “Global Change in the Marine Realm” (GLOMAR), Bremen International Graduate School for Marine Sciences, Leobener Str., 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 7 Department of Seaweed Biology, Section of Functional Ecology, Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Marine Station, Kurpromenade 201, 27498 Helgoland, Germany
  • 8 Department of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg, Box 461, SE-405 30, Göteborg, Sweden
  • 9 Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “B. Rivadavia”, Av. A. Gallardo 470 (C1405DJR), Buenos Aires, Argentina


Information on succession in marine benthic primary producers in polar regions is very scarce, particularly with regard to effects of abiotic and biotic drivers of community structure. Primary succession begins with rapid colonizers, such as diatoms and ephemeral macroalgae, whereas slow, highly seasonal recruitment and growth are characteristic of annual or perennial seaweed species. Colonization of intertidal and subtidal assemblages on polar rocky shores is severely affected by physical disturbance and by seasonal changes in abiotic conditions. Biotic factors, such as grazing, can strongly affect colonization patterns and also alter competitive interactions among benthic algae. Ambient UV radiation affects the diversity of macroalgal communities during early and later stages of succession. In contrast, microalgal assemblages have high tolerance to UV stress. Climate warming could alter algal latitudinal distribution and favor invasion of polar regions by cold-temperate species. Reduced sea ice cover and retreating glaciers could expand colonization areas but alter light, salinity, sedimentation and disturbance processes. Although the key role of macroalgae in coastal systems and, to a much reduced extent, the importance of microphytobenthos have been documented for polar regions, information on the successional process is incomplete and will benefit from further ecological studies.

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Botanica Marina publishes high-quality contributions from all of the disciplines of marine botany at all levels of biological organisation from subcellular to ecosystem: chemistry and applications, genomics, physiology and ecology, phylogeny and biogeography. Research involving global or interdisciplinary interest is especially welcome as well as applied science papers dealing with emerging conceptual issues or developing technologies.