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Botanica Marina

Editor-in-Chief: Dring, Matthew

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The abiotic environment of polar marine benthic algae

Katharina Zacher1 / Ralf Rautenberger2 / Dieter Hanelt3 / Angela Wulff4 / Christian Wiencke1

1Department Seaweed Biology, Section Functional Ecology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Am Handelshafen 12, D-27570 Bremerhaven, Germany

2Department of Marine Botany, University of Bremen, FB 2 (Biology/Chemistry), Leobener Str. NW 2, D-28359 Bremen, Germany

3Biozentrum Klein Flottbek, University of Hamburg, Ohnhorststr. 18, D-22609 Hamburg, Germany

4Department of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg, Box 461, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

Corresponding author

Citation Information: Botanica Marina. Volume 52, Issue 6, Pages 483–490, ISSN (Online) 1437-4323, ISSN (Print) 0006-8055, DOI: 10.1515/BOT.2009.082, December 2009

Publication History



Due to different oceanographic and geological characteristics, benthic algal communities of Antarctica and the Arctic differ strongly. Antarctica is characterized by high endemism, whereas in the Arctic only a few endemic species occur. In contrast to the Antarctic region, where nutrient levels never limit algal growth, nutrient levels in the Arctic region are depleted during the summer season. Both regions have a strongly seasonally changing light regime, fortified by an ice covering throughout the winter months. After months of darkness, algae are suddenly exposed to high light caused by the breaking up of sea ice. Simultaneously, harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) enters the water column and can significantly affect algal growth and community structure. In the intertidal zone, fluctuations of temperature and salinity can be very large. Ice scours can further influence growth and settlement of intertidal algae. The subtidal zone offers a more stable habitat than the intertidal, permitting the growth of larger perennial algae and microbial mats. Polar regions are the areas most affected by global climate change, i.e., glacier retreat, increasing temperature and sedimentation, with as yet unknown consequences for the polar ecosystem.

Keywords: benthic algae; global change; light climate polar regions; seasonality

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