Competition, sub-lethal mortality and diversity on Southern Ocean coastal rock communities
Overgrowth competition, sub-lethal mortality (some zooids killed but colony survives) and subsequent growth from fragments, and diversity of communities encrusting rocks (pebble through to boulder size) were examined from five Antarctic localities, along a latitudinal gradient. There were distinct gradients in the ecology of both assemblages and individual species with latitude within the Southern Ocean. Compared with warm-water equivalents, the polar assemblages had many fewer species, considerably less variability in species richness, highly transitive interactions and lower incidences of interspecific encounters. There is no gradual transition but a dramatic alteration of assemblage and species level ecology around the margins of the Southern Ocean, which may primarily be due to ice scour. Sub-lethal mortality was common and peaked on different boulder sizes along the Antarctic Peninsula. This is indicative of the disturbance dine along the region.