Seaweeds and Their Communities in Polar Regions

  • Christian Wiencke
  • Charles D. Amsler
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 219)


Polar seaweeds typically begin to grow in late winter–spring, around the time of sea-ice breakup. They can grow under very low light enabling distributions to depths of 40 m. Moreover, they are physiologically adapted to low temperatures. Intertidal species exhibit a remarkable stress tolerance against freezing, desiccation, and salinity changes. Endemism is much greater in the Antarctic compared to the Arctic species. On rocky shores of the Antarctic Peninsula and of Spitsbergen >80% of the bottom can be covered by seaweeds with standing biomass levels 20 kg wet wt m2. Species richness and biomass declines, however, toward higher latitudes. Seaweeds are the dominant organisms in coastal waters and thus play important roles in benthic food webs and are likely to be of particular importance to benthic detrital food chains. Chemical defenses against herbivores are common in Antarctic, but not in Arctic seaweeds. More research is needed especially to study the effects of global climate changes.


Antarctic Peninsula Western Antarctic Peninsula Saccharina Latissima Seaweed Community Plocamium Cartilagineum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank M. Amsler for editorial suggestions. Manuscript preparation was supported in part by US National Science Foundation award ANT-0838773 from the Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems program.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Seaweed Biology, Section Functional EcologyAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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