Impact of marine vertebrates on Antarctic terrestrial micro-arthropods
Traits of primary producers associated with tissue quality are commonly assumed to have strong control over higher trophic levels. However, this view is largely based on studies of vascular plants, and cryptogamic vegetation has received far less attention. In this study natural gradients in nutrient concentrations in cryptogams associated with the proximity of penguin colonies on a Maritime Antarctic island were utilized to quantify the impact of nitrogen content on micro-arthropod communities. Proximity to penguin colonies increased the nitrogen concentration of cryptogams, and the penguin source was confirmed by decreasing δ15N values at greater distances from colonies. Micro-arthropod abundance, diversity (H’) and richness declined with distance from the penguin colonies, and was positively correlated with the nitrogen concentrations of cryptogams. Δ15N of micro-arthropods was positively correlated (r2=0.865, P<0.01) with δ15N of the moss Andreaea depressinervis indicating that penguin-derived nitrogen moves through Antarctic food webs across multiple trophic levels. Nitrogen content of cryptogams was correlated with associated micro-arthropods indicating that biotic interactions affect community development in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. The spatial patterns of Antarctic biodiversity can therefore be affected by local factors, such as marine vertebrates, beyond existing latitudinal patterns of temperature and water availability.
Authors: Bokhorst, Stef, Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey