Ophiuroid biodiversity patterns along the Antarctic Peninsula
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- Ambroso, S., Böhmer, A., López-González, P. et al. Polar Biol (2016) 39: 881. doi:10.1007/s00300-016-1911-4
Benthic ecological surveys using standardized methods are crucial for assessing changes associated with several threats in the Southern Ocean. The acquisition of data on assemblage structure over a variety of spatial scales is important to understand the variation of biodiversity patterns. During the ANT XXIX/3 (PS81) expedition of RV Polarstern, three different regions at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula were sampled: the northwestern Weddell Sea, the Bransfield Strait, and the northern boundary of the South Shetland Archipelago in the Drake Passage. The aim of this study was to characterize the distribution and biodiversity patterns of ophiuroid assemblages in these regions and depths. We quantified different community parameters in terms of the number of species, abundance, and biomass. Additionally, we calculated various components of species diversity (alpha, beta, and gamma diversity) over the three regions. Based on the benthic surveys, we collected 3331 individuals that were identified to species level (17 species). Overall, species diversity, as measured based on rarefaction, species richness and evenness estimators, was higher in the Bransfield Strait compared to the Weddell Sea and Drake Passage. Two deep stations in the Weddell Sea showed high dominance only of Ophionotus victoriae. Significant differences in the patterns of alpha diversity were found among the regions but not between depth zones, whereas beta diversity showed no differences. Regarding the resemblance among the ophiuroid assemblages of each region, there was a significant gradient from east to west with a maximum distance between the stations in the Drake Passage and the Weddell Sea. This study provides a baseline for detecting potential effects related to climate change, and it furnishes a basis for the implementation of monitoring schemes of Antarctic assemblages.