Bryophyte diversity and ecology of two geologically contrasting Antarctic islands

A comparison is made of the bryophyte floras of two small maritime Antarctic islands lying at similar latitudes and with similar climates and glacial topographies, but differing markedly in their origins, geologies and derived soils. Signy Island (South Orkney Islands) is geologically complex with substrata ranging from strongly acidic schist to strongly alkaline marble and amphibolite, while Deception Island (South Shetland Islands) is volcanic with mildly alkaline lava, tuff, basalt and fine ash. Both islands are relatively low and approximately half ice-free. Signy has a long history of glacial fluctuations, allowing a wide range of cryptogamic community types to develop since the mid-Holocene (at least 5500 years ago), while most present substrata on Deception are very recent, following extensive habitat change resulting from eruptions in 1839–1842 and 1967–1970. The unstable nature of Deception's terrain greatly restricts habitat and plant community diversity. Nevertheless, both islands have the same number of bryophyte species and similar numbers that are exclusive to each island. Of the total of 81 moss and 19 liverwort species for both islands, only 36 and six species, respectively, are common to both islands. Much of this difference in species diversity is due to the greater substratum stability, abundance of surface water and the calcareous rocks and soils on Signy, and to geothermal activity at many sites on Deception.


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Authors: Smith, Ronald I. Lewis

1 January, 2005
Journal of Bryology / 27
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