Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 781–788 | Cite as

Antarctic patterns of shallow subtidal habitat and inhabitants in Wilke’s Land

  • Emma L. JohnstonEmail author
  • Sean D. Connell
  • Andrew D. Irving
  • Adele J. Pile
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
Original Paper


Studies of east Antarctic marine assemblages on hard substrata are rare. In relation to sea-ice breakout, we assessed benthic patterns of habitat and inhabitants between islands and bays at each of two depths (6 and 12 m) across the Windmill Islands coast. Island sites experience sea-ice breakout in the austral spring, while bay sites typically retain sea-ice cover into the summer and in some places the cover is virtually permanent. Composition of assemblages differed between sheltered bays and exposed islands. Islands were dominated by macroalgae, which also varied with depth. Immediately below the ice–foot zone at 6 m, substratum space were monopolised by foliose red (Palmaria decipiens) and foliose brown (Desmarestia sp.) algae, whereas at 12 m large canopies of Himantothallus grandifolius was abundant. The understorey consisted of a mixture of turfs and encrusting red algae at 6 m, and coralline algae at 12 m. Sheltered bays had large areas of sediment/algal complex and no canopy-forming macroalgae. We found more sponges and hydroids in bays, and more brittle stars around islands. Experiments testing factors that covary with exposure and depth in Antarctica, such as light, sedimentation and ice scour are necessary to determine processes that maintain these striking patterns.


Rocky-coast Macroalgae Invertebrates Ice-cover Antarctica community structure Ice-sheets 



We would like to acknowledge the brave and generous support of our field volunteers Kate Stuart and Edward Forbes and our diving supervisor Colin Hodson. We are grateful for the expert advice and assistance of the entire Australian Antarctic Division’s 2003/2004 Diving Team. Figure 1 was kindly created by Jonathon Stark of the Australian Antarctic Division. This research was supported by an Australian Antarctic Division grant (2300) awarded to A.J.P., S.D.C., and B.M.G.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma L. Johnston
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sean D. Connell
    • 2
  • Andrew D. Irving
    • 2
    • 4
  • Adele J. Pile
    • 3
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, DP 418, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological Sciences A08University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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