Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems contribute a tiny proportion of the area of the continent and host an impoverished and often cryptic biota. In recent years it has been realized that much of this biota is unique to the continent, carrying signals of its evolutionary radiation on multi-million-year timescales, some even pre-dating the final breakup of Gondwana and the geographic isolation of Antarctica. However, for terrestrial life to have existed continuously on the continent over these timescales, appropriate ice-free land must have existed through the multiple glacial cycles that took place throughout the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene eras. This challenges current glaciological reconstructions, which present a model of complete obliteration of most currently ice-free areas of ground at successive glacial maxima, with those remaining not providing viable refugia for the majority of the contemporary terrestrial biota. In this chapter, we consider the requirement for refugia across all regions of Antarctica, and the likely form that such refugia may have taken.
Authors: Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey, Biersma, Elisabeth M. ORCID record for Elisabeth M. Biersma, Casanova-Katny, Angelica, Maturana, Claudia