Polar Biology

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 517–531 | Cite as

Overview of coralline red algal crusts and rhodolith beds (Corallinales, Rhodophyta) and their possible ecological importance in Greenland

  • Helle I. Ø. JørgensbyeEmail author
  • Jochen Halfar
Original Paper


Coralline red algae are a globally distributed and abundant group of shallow marine benthic calcifiers. They can form important ecosystems that provide a three-dimensional habitat to a large variety of marine organisms. While the study of coralline red algae has traditionally been focused on warm-water habitats, numerous recent reports have now described widespread coralline red algal ecosystems from high-latitude regions, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it is becoming increasingly evident that coralline red algae are likely the dominant marine calcifying organisms on the seafloor of the Arctic and subarctic photic zone. This article gives a first overview of the distribution of coralline red algal crusts and rhodolith (free-living coralline red algal nodules) grounds in Greenland and the first report of rhodoliths in East Greenland. Museum data and recent sampling information have been compiled to develop a distribution map of coralline genera and rhodolith communities. The depth range of coralline red algae in Greenland has been extended by 27 m, from 50 to 77 m depth. In addition, rhodoliths of the normally crust-forming species Clathromorphum compactum are described for the first time from a sheltered Greenland fjord. Based on the data compiled here, it becomes clear that rhodolith communities are a widespread feature of the Greenland shallow shelf areas. Gaining a better understanding of the distribution of these hitherto poorly understood high-latitude ecosystems is essential due to their function as spawning areas and nursery grounds for commercially important fish and invertebrates.


Coralline red algae Rhodoliths Greenland Clathromorphum compactum Maërl 



We wish to thank Ellen Kenchington from Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Captain and crew aboard Canadian Coast Guard Ship Hudson for help with fieldwork. We are grateful to Dr. Calvin Campbell and Dr. Vlad Kostylev (NRCan) for the use of the 4KCam and Angus Robertson 416 (NRCan) for his able deployment of it under difficult conditions. Thanks to Martin Blicher from the Greenland Climate Research Centre for help with sampling in Greenland. Thanks TELE greenland for allowing us to use scuba diving footage. We further wish to thank the editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript.


Helle Jørgensbye acknowledges support from an Industrial PhD grant from the Home Rule government of Greenland and Sustainable Fisheries Greenland. Jochen Halfar acknowledges support from a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada, Discovery grant.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Aquatic ResourcesTechnical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua)CharlottenlundDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Physical SciencesUniversity of Toronto at MississaugaMississaugaCanada

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