Habitat severity characteristics structure soil communities at regional and local spatial scales along the Antarctica Peninsula
Antarctic soils provide an excellent setting to test biogeographical patterns across spatial and environmental scales given their relatively simple communities and the dominance of physical factors that create strong environmental gradients. Additional urgency is given by the fact that their unique terrestrial communities are the subject of conservation efforts in a rapidly changing environment. We investigated relationships of soil community assembly and alpha and beta diversity with climatic and environmental parameters across regional and local scales in Maritime Antarctica. We sampled from a regional gradient of sites that differ in habitat severity, ranging from relatively favourable to harsher physicochemical conditions. At the regional scale, bacterial community characteristics and microarthropod abundance varied along this severity gradient, but most measures of fungal communities did not. Microarthropod and microbial communities differed in which soil and climate parameters were most influential, and the specific parameters that influenced each taxon differed across broad and fine spatial scales. This suggests that conservation efforts will need to focus on a large variety of habitat characteristics to successfully encompass diversity across taxa. Because beta diversity was the result of species turnover, conservation efforts also cannot focus on only the most biodiverse sites to effectively preserve all aspects of biodiversity.
Authors: Ball, B.A., Convey, P. ORCID record for P. Convey, Feeser, K.L., Nielsen, U.N., Van Horn, D.