Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Ecology of algal communities of different soil types from Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula


During summer 2005/2006, we characterized three sampling sites on mineral soils and four on ornithogenic soils from Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula, in terms of topographic and abiotic features (altitude, slope, magnetic direction, temperature, texture, pH, conductivity, organic matter, moisture and nutrient concentrations), and compared their microalgal communities through taxonomic composition, species richness, diversity, chlorophyll a content and their variation in time. Average values of pH, moisture, organic matter and nutrient concentrations were always significantly lower in mineral than in ornithogenic soils. Low N/P mass ratio showed potential N-limitation of biomass capacity in the former. On the other hand, the results suggested that physical stability is not as a key stress factor for mineral soil microalgae. Chlorophyll a concentration was not only higher in ornithogenic soils, but it also showed a wider range of values. As this parameter was positively correlated with temperature, pH, nutrients, organic matter and moisture, we cannot come to conclusions regarding the influence of each factor on algal growth. Communities of mineral soils were significantly more diverse than those of enriched ornithogenic soils due to higher species richness as well as higher equitability. Also, their structure was steadier over time, as shown by a cluster analysis based on relative frequency of algal taxa. Although Cyanobacteria and Bacillariophyceae dominated almost all samples, Chlorophyceae represented 34% of the 140 taxa recorded, and most of them observed only in cultures. The detection under controlled conditions of a high latent species richness in harsh mineral soil sites shows that the composition and equitability of these microalgal communities would be more prone to modification due to the manifold local consequences of climatic change than those of ornithogenic soils.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Agraz JL, Quintana RD, Acero JM (1994) Ecología de los ambientes terrestres en Punta Cierva (Costa de Danco, Península Antártica). Contrib Inst Antárt Argent 439:1–31

  2. Akiyama M, Kanda H, Ohyama Y (1986) Allelopathic effect of penguin excrements and guanos on the growth of Antarctic soil algae. Mem Natl Inst Polar Res 11–16

  3. Arnold RJ, Convey P, Hughes KA, Wynn-Williams DD (2003) Seasonal periodicity of physical factors, inorganic nutrients and microalgae in Antarctic fellfields. Polar Biol 26:396–403

  4. Bölter M, Beyer L, Stonehouse B (2002) Antarctic coastal landscapes: characteristics, ecology and research. In: Beyer L, Bölter M (eds) Geoecology of Antarctic Ice-Free Coastal Landscapes. Ecological Studies 154. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 3–15

  5. Brinkmann M, Pearce DA, Convey P, Ott S (2007) The cyanobacterial community of polygon soils at an inland Antarctic nunatak. Polar Biol 30:1505–1511

  6. Broady PA (1979) The terrestrial algae of Signy Island, South Orkneys Islands. Sci Rep Br Antarct Surv 98:1–117

  7. Broady PA (1986) Ecology and taxonomy of the terrestrial algae of the Vestfold Hills. In: Pickard J (ed) Antarctic Oasis. Terrestrial environment and history of the Vestfold Hills. Academic Press, Sydney, pp 165–202

  8. Broady PA (1989) Survey of algae and other terrestrial biota at Edward VII Peninsula, Marie Byrd Land. Antarct Sci 1:215–224

  9. Broady PA (1996) Diversity, distribution and dispersal of Antarctic terrestrial algae. Biodivers Conserv 5:1307–1335

  10. Broady PA (2005) The distribution of terrestrial and hydro-terrestrial algal associations at three contrasting locations in southern Victoria Land, Antarctica. Algological Stud 118:95–112

  11. Cavacini P (2001) Soil algae from northern Victoria Land (Antarctica). Polar Biosci 14:45–60

  12. Chantanachat S, Bold HC (1962) Phycological Studies II. Some algae from arid soils. Univ Texas Publ 6218:1–75

  13. Convey P (2001) Antarctic ecosystems. In: Levin SA (ed) Encyclopedia of biodiversity. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 171–184

  14. Convey P (2006) Climate change and terrestrial systems. In: Bergstrom DM, Convey P, Huiskes AHL (eds) Trends in Antarctic terrestrial and limnetic ecosystems. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 253–272

  15. Convey P, Quintana RD (1997) The terrestrial arthropod fauna of Cierva Point SSSI, Danco Coast, northern Antarctic Peninsula. Eur J Soil Biol 33:19–29

  16. Davey MC (1988) Ecology of terrestrial algae of the fellfield ecosystems of Signy Island, South Orkney Island. Br Antarct Surv Bull 81:69–74

  17. Davey MC, Rothery P (1992) Factors causing the limitation of growth of terrestrial algae in maritime Antarctica during late summer. Polar Biol 12:595–602

  18. Davey MC, Pickup J, Block W (1992) Temperature variation and its biological significance in fellfield habitats on a maritime Antarctic island. Antarct Sci 4:383–388

  19. Ellis-Evans JC, Walton D (1990) The process of colonisation in Antarctic terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Proc NIPR Symp Polar Biol 3:151–163

  20. Elster J (2002) Ecological classification of terrestrial algal communities in polar environments. In: Beyer L, Bölter M (eds) Geoecolgy of Antarctic Ice-Free Coastal Landscapes. Ecological studies 154. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 303–326

  21. Ettl H, Gärtner G (1995) Syllabus der Boden,- Luft und Flechtenalgen. Gustav Fischer, Stuttgart

  22. Fermani P, Mataloni G, Van de Vijver B (2007) Soil microalgal communities on an Antarctic active volcano (Deception Island, South Shetlands). Polar Biol 30:1381–1393

  23. Hawkes CV, Fletchner VR (2002) Biological soils crusts in a xeric Florida shrubland: composition, abundance, and spatial heterogeneity of crusts with different disturbance histories. Microb Ecol 43:1–14

  24. Komárek J, Anagnostidis K (1999) Cyanoprokaryota. 1 Teil: Chroococcales. In: Ettl H et al (eds) Süβwassersflora von Mitteleuropa, Bd 19/1. Gustav Fischer, Jena

  25. Komárek J, Anagnostidis K (2005) Cyanoprokaryota 2 Teil: Oscillatoriales. In: Büdel B et al (eds) Süβwassersflora von Mitteleuropa, Bd 19/2. Elsevier, München

  26. Krammer K, Lange-Bertalot H (1986) Bacillariophyceae 1 Teil: Naviculaceae. In: Ettl H, Gerloff J, Heynig H, Mollenhauer D (eds) Süsswasserflora von Mitteleuropa, Bd 2/1 Gustav Fischer. Stuttgart, New York

  27. Krammer K, Lange-Bertalot H (1991) Bacillariophyceae 3 Teil: Centrales, Fragilariaceae, Eunotiaceae. In: Ettl H, Gerloff J, Heynig H, Mollenhauer D (eds) Süsswasserflora von Mitteleuropa, Bd 2/4. Gustav Fischer, Jena

  28. MacArthur RH, Wilson EO (1967) The theory of island biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  29. Magurran A (2004) Measuring biological diversity. Blackwell, Oxford

  30. Mataloni G, Tell G (2002) Microalgal communities from ornithogenic soils at Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biol 25:488–491

  31. Mataloni G, Tell G, Wynn–Williams DD (2000) Structure and diversity of soil algal communities from Cierva Point (Antarctic Peninsula). Polar Biol 23:205–211

  32. Mataloni G, González Garraza G, Bölter M, Convey P, Fermani P (2010) What shapes edaphic communities in mineral and ornithogenic soils of Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula? Polar Sci. doi:10.1016/j.polar.2010.04.005

  33. Ohtani S, Akiyama M, Kanda H (1991) Analysis of Antarctic soil algae by the direct observation using the contact slide method. Antarct Rec 35:285–295

  34. Round FE, Crawford RM, Mann DG (1990) The diatoms: biology and morphology of the genera. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  35. Smith RL, Smith TM (2001) Ecología, 4th edn. Pearson, Madrid

  36. Smykla J, Wolek J, Barcilowski A (2007) Zonation of vegetation related to penguin rookeries on King George Island, Maritime Antarctica. Arct Antarct Alp Res 39:143–151

  37. Sokal RR, Sneath PHA (1963) Principles of numerical taxonomy. Freeman, San Francisco

  38. Stanier RY, Cohen-Bazire G (1977) Phototrophic prokaryotes: the Cyanobacteria. Ann Rev Microbiol 31:225–274

  39. Tatur A (2002) Ornithogenic Ecosystems in the maritime antarctic-formation, development and disintegration. In: Beyer L, Bölter M (eds) Geoecology of Antarctic Ice-Free Coastal Landscapes. Ecological studies 154. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 161–184

  40. Tatur A, Myrcha A (1983) Mineralization of penguin excrements in the Admiralty Bay region (King George Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica). Pol Polar Res 4:97–112

  41. Van de Vijver B, Frenot Y, Beyens L (2002) Freshwater diatoms from the Ile de la Possession (Crozet Archipelago, Sub-Antarctica). Bibl Diatom 46:412

  42. Worland MR, Lukesová A (2000) The effect of feeding on specific soil algae in the cold-hardiness of two Antarctic micro-arthropods (Alaskozetes antarcticus and Cryptopygus antarcticus). Polar Biol 23:766–777

  43. Wynn-Williams DD (1990) Microbial colonization processes in Antarctic fellfield soils-an experimental overview. Proc NIPR Symp Polar Biol 3:164–178

  44. Wynn-Williams DD (1993) Microbial processes and initial stabilization of fellfield soil. In: Miles J, Walton DWE (eds) Primary succession on land. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 17–32

  45. Wynn-Williams DD (1996) Response of pioneer soil microalgal colonists to environmental change in Antarctica. Microb Ecol 31:177–188

  46. Wynn-Williams DD (1997) Moisture and habitat structure as regulators for microalgal colonists in diverse Antarctic terrestrial habitats. In: Lyons WB, Howard-Williams C, Hawes I (eds) Ecosystem processes in Antarctic ice-free landscapes. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 77–88

  47. Zar JH (1996) Biostatistical analysis, 3rd edn. Prentice Hall, New Jersey

Download references


This research has been supported by the University of Buenos Aires, CONICET and the Instituto Antártico Argentino through research grants PIP 5356 and UBACYT X864 and contributes to the SCAR EBA research program. The authors are grateful for the logistic support of the Base Antártica Primavera staff and statistical advice from Lic. Rubén Lombardo (CONICET). Thorough revision by Paul Broady, Phil Novis and an anonymous referee largely helped to improve the original manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to G. Mataloni.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

González Garraza, G., Mataloni, G., Fermani, P. et al. Ecology of algal communities of different soil types from Cierva Point, Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biol 34, 339–351 (2011).

Download citation


  • Maritime Antarctica
  • Soil algae
  • Community structure
  • Ornithogenic soils
  • Mineral soils