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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to G. Mataloni.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0887-8

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Keywords

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