, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 15–37 | Cite as

Arctic rhodolith beds and their environmental controls (Spitsbergen, Norway)

  • S. TeichertEmail author
  • W. Woelkerling
  • A. Rüggeberg
  • M. Wisshak
  • D. Piepenburg
  • M. Meyerhöfer
  • A. Form
  • A. Freiwald
Original Article


Coralline algae (Corallinales, Rhodophyta) that form rhodoliths are important ecosystem engineers and carbonate producers in many polar coastal habitats. This study deals with rhodolith communities from Floskjeret (78°18′N), Krossfjorden (79°08′N), and Mosselbukta (79°53′N), off Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard Archipelago, Norway. Strong seasonal variations in temperature, salinity, light regime, sea-ice coverage, and turbidity characterize these localities. The coralline algal flora consists of Lithothamnion glaciale and Phymatolithon tenue. Well-developed rhodoliths were recorded between 27 and 47 m water depth, while coralline algal encrustations on lithoclastic cobbles were detected down to 77 m water depth. At all sites, ambient waters were saturated with respect to both aragonite and calcite, and the rhodolith beds were located predominately at dysphotic water depths. The rhodolith-associated macrobenthic fauna included grazing organisms such as chitons and echinoids. With decreasing water depth, the rhodolith pavements were regularly overgrown by non-calcareous Polysiphonia-like red algae. The corallines are thriving and are highly specialized in their adaptations to the physical environment as well as in their interaction with the associated benthic fauna, which is similar to other polar rhodolith communities. The marine environment of Spitsbergen is already affected by a climate-driven ecological regime shift and will lead to an increased borealization in the near future, with presently unpredictable consequences for coralline red algal communities.


Depth gradient Environmental parameters Lithothamnion glaciale Phymatolithon tenue Rhodolith community Seasonality Spitsbergen 



This work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FR 1134/18). Mean water temperatures and salinities are based on data from LEVITUS 94, available from: Annual sea ice formation and breakup data are based on AMSR-E Sea Ice Maps, available from: Polar night duration data are based on USNO Sun Rise Tables, available from: The authors would like to thank the captain and the crew of Maria S. Merian, the JAGO operating team (GEOMAR), Dirk Fleischer (Kiel) for helping with benthos sampling, and Ines Pyko for her work as research assistant. We thank both anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments that resulted in an improved manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Teichert
    • 1
    Email author
  • W. Woelkerling
    • 2
  • A. Rüggeberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • M. Wisshak
    • 5
  • D. Piepenburg
    • 6
  • M. Meyerhöfer
    • 7
  • A. Form
    • 7
  • A. Freiwald
    • 5
    • 8
  1. 1.GeoZentrum NordbayernFachgruppe PaläoumweltErlangenGermany
  2. 2.La Trobe University, Department of BotanyBundooraAustralia
  3. 3.Ghent University, Renard Centre of Marine GeologyGentBelgium
  4. 4.GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean ResearchKielGermany
  5. 5.Senckenberg am Meer, Marine Research DepartmentWilhelmshavenGermany
  6. 6.Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainzc/o Institut für Polarökologie, Universität KielKielGermany
  7. 7.GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean ResearchMarine BiogeochemistryKielGermany
  8. 8.MARUM, Center for Marine Environmental SciencesBremenGermany

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