Sponge communities of the Antarctic Peninsula: influence of environmental variables on species composition and richness
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- Kersken, D., Feldmeyer, B. & Janussen, D. Polar Biol (2016) 39: 851. doi:10.1007/s00300-015-1875-9
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Sponge communities on the Antarctic continental shelf currently represent one of the most extensive sponge grounds in the world, and all sponge classes are known to occur in the Southern Ocean. Main objectives of this study conducted at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula were (1) to identify all sampled sponges and (2) to investigate whether the species composition and species richness of Southern Ocean sponge communities in the area of the Antarctic Peninsula are significantly influenced by environmental variables. The studied material originated from 25 AGT catches and was sampled during the expedition ANT-XXIX/3 of RV Polarstern. Samples were collected in three large-scale areas in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula: Bransfield Strait, Drake Passage and Weddell Sea. The following six environmental variables were measured from bottom water samples (except for sea-ice cover): depth (m), light transmission (%), oxygen (µmol/kg), salinity, sea-ice cover (%) and temperature (°C). Two hundred and sixty-three sponge samples were analyzed, and 81 species of 33 genera from all Porifera classes (Calcarea, Demospongiae, Hexactinellida and Homoscleromorpha) were identified. Total numbers of sponge species per sample station ranged from 1 to 29. A detrended correspondence analysis and a backward-stepwise model selection were performed to check whether species composition and richness were significantly influenced by environmental variables. The analyses revealed that none of the measured environmental variables significantly influenced species composition but that species richness was significantly influenced by (1) temperature and (2) the combination of temperature and depth. Results of this study are of crucial importance for development, performance and assessment of future protection strategies in case of ongoing climatic changes at the Antarctic Peninsula.