The present study characterizes the spatial distribution of seaweed diversity on eight islands from the South Shetlands based on an updated taxonomic survey, discussing the higher number of species compared with previous studies and the possible relationships with environmental parameters. Seaweeds were sampled in Deception, Livingston, Halfmoon, Robert, Nelson, King George, Penguin, and Elephant Islands during the austral summer between 2010 and 2013 in intertidal and shallow subtidal zones. The taxonomic analyses evaluated morphological characteristics, reproductive structures, and molecular features. Physicochemical parameters of seawater were also monitored using standard analytical methods. A total of 104 species of benthic marine algae were identified (28 Phaeophyceae, 24 Chlorophyta, and 52 Rhodophyta), ~82% of all seaweeds taxa described to Antarctica, including six new records previously recorded only at lower latitudes, four confirmed taxa, and two putative new species. Spatial variation in species diversity was observed among the collecting sites, and Livingston and King George Islands showed the highest diversity among the islands. Deception, an area with geothermal activity and intense tourism, was dominated by opportunistic and broadly distributed filamentous green algae. Antarctic macroalgae diversity was higher than in previous studies, most likely due to more efficient techniques of sampling, and combined taxonomical methods. However, changes in the biogeographical distribution or introduction of some taxa, resulting from anthropogenic activities and/or climate changes, should be considered. Therefore, the higher number of taxa and the new records reported in this study suggest the need for long-term monitoring in the area for conservation purposes.
Polar Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 11, 2017
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