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Grounding icebergs enhance regional benthic diversity in Antarctica

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Gutt, J. and Piepenburg, D. (2003): Grounding icebergs enhance regional benthic diversity in Antarctica , GFÖ-Symposium 2003. .
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Abstract:

Disturbances like forest fires, tree falls or hurricanes are natural and essential processes in ecosystems [1,2]. Their initially catastrophic impacts are followed by beneficial effects on biodiversity [3,4] which is increasingly recognized to be fundamental in ecosystem functioning [5]. Recently, iceberg scouring of the Antarctica seabed has been identified as another important disturbance agent [6]. This finding is inconsistent with the paradigm that high benthic diversity on the deep Antarctic shelf [7] is primarily caused by long-lasting environmental stability.Here we show how iceberg scouring significantly shapes megabenthic structures. Sea-bed video-strips from the Weddell Sea provide evidence that at a local scale between 1 and 100 m, undisturbed glass sponge habitats were more diverse than disturbed ones. However, the increase in habitat heterogeneity caused by iceberg scouring enhanced species diversity at a regional scale (1-100 km). The recolonization seems to be highly variability and barely predictable in terms of time and species composition. Consequently, the Intermediate-Disturbance Hypothesis assuming the existence of competitive displacement at small spatial scales [4] can not be confirmed. Instead the coexistence of different successional stages generally described by the Patch-Dynamics Concept [2] leads to high benthic diversity in Antarctica.

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