Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 5, pp 1075–1083 | Cite as

The response of encrusting coralline algae to canopy loss: an independent test of predictions on an Antarctic coast

  • Andrew D. IrvingEmail author
  • Sean D. Connell
  • Emma L. Johnston
  • Adele J. Pile
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
Research Article


We assessed whether published observations of the ecology of encrusting coralline algae (Rhodophyta) from tropical and temperate coasts could be used to predict patterns and responses on a polar coast where such knowledge does not exist. On subtidal rocky coasts near Casey, East Antarctica, we detected a strong positive association of understorey encrusting coralline algae with canopies formed by the endemic alga Himantothallus grandifolius. The experimental removal of H. grandifolius caused corallines to bleach from red to pink/white concomitant with a decline in their photosynthetic activity. The magnitude of this decline (mean ± SE = 56.85±8.43%) was remarkably similar to that observed on temperate coasts (45.98±5.91%). Positive effects of nutrient enrichment of the surrounding water, hypothesized to alleviate the negative effects of canopy loss on encrusting corallines, were not detected. Removing H. grandifolius increased the intensity of photosynthetically active radiation and ultra-violet radiation reaching the substratum by three orders of magnitude, providing the basis for models invoking enhanced irradiance as the primary cause of the negative effects of canopy loss. Striking similarities among our results and those from tropical and temperate coasts suggest that responses of encrusting corallines to loss of canopies may have predictive properties across large distances and environmental gradients (tropical–temperate–polar).


Photosynthetic Activity Nutrient Enrichment Total Percentage Cover Polar Coast Ambient Nutrient Concentration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Enduring extreme conditions and challenging circumstances to complete this research was made possible by dedicated field support from Colin Hodson, Ed Forbes, Kate Stuart and Rob ‘Jibba’ Nixon. Thanks go to the station leader and our fellow expeditioners at Casey for their hospitality and friendship, and to the Australian Antarctic Division for their professional advice and logistical support. We thank the captains and crews of the ships Vasiliy Golovnin and Aurora Australis, which provided transport. Useful suggestions from three anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. This research was supported by an Australian Antarctic Science Grant (2300) awarded to A.J.P., S.D.C. and B.M.G, and an Australian Research Council grant and Queen Elizabeth II Fellowships to S.D.C. and B.M.G.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew D. Irving
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sean D. Connell
    • 1
  • Emma L. Johnston
    • 2
  • Adele J. Pile
    • 3
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological Sciences A08University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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