Antarctic nematode communities: observed and predicted responses to climate change
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The rapidly changing climate in Antarctica is impacting the ecosystems. Since records began, climate changes have varied considerably throughout Antarctica with both positive and negative trends in temperatures and precipitation observed locally. However, over the course of this century a more directional increase in both temperature and precipitation is expected to occur throughout Antarctica. The soil communities of Antarctica are considered simple with most organisms existing at the edge of their physiological capabilities. Therefore, Antarctic soil communities are expected to be particularly sensitive to climate changes. However, a review of the current literature reveals that studies investigating the impact of climate change on soil communities, and in particular nematode communities, in Antarctica are very limited. Of the few studies focusing on Antarctic nematode communities, long-term monitoring has shown that nematode communities respond to changes in local climate trends as well as extreme (or pulse) events. These results are supported by in situ experiments, which show that nematode communities respond to both temperature and soil moisture manipulations. We conclude that the predicted climate changes are likely to exert a strong influence on nematode communities throughout Antarctica and will generally lead to increasing abundance, species richness, and food web complexity, although the opposite may occur locally. The degree to which local communities respond will depend on current conditions, i.e., average temperatures, soil moisture availability, vegetation or more importantly the lack thereof, and the local species pool in combination with the potential for new species to colonize.