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Fourteen degrees of latitude and a continent apart: comparison of lichen activity over two years at continental and maritime Antarctic sites

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2010

Burkhard Schroeter
Botanisches Institut, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, D-24098 Kiel, Germany
T.G. Allan Green*
Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand Biologia Vegetal II, Farmacia Facultad, Universidad Computense, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Stefan Pannewitz
Botanisches Institut, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, D-24098 Kiel, Germany
Mark Schlensog
Botanisches Institut, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, D-24098 Kiel, Germany
Leopoldo G. Sancho
Biologia Vegetal II, Farmacia Facultad, Universidad Computense, 28040 Madrid, Spain


There are marked declines in precipitation, mean temperatures and the number of lichen species with increasing latitude in Antarctica. However, it is not known which factors are the predominant controllers of biodiversity changes. Results are presented from over two years of almost continuous monitoring of both microclimate and activity in lichens at Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, 62°S, and Botany Bay, Ross Sea region, 77°S. Lichen activity was evident over a much longer period at Livingston Island, (3694 versus 897 hours) and could occur in any month whereas it was almost completely confined to the period November–February at Botany Bay. Mean air temperatures were much lower at Botany Bay (-18° compared to -1.5°C at Livingston Island), but the temperatures at which the lichens were active were almost identical at around 2°C at both sites. When the lichens were active incident light at Botany Bay was very much higher. The differences are related to the availability of meltwater which only occurs at times of high light and warm temperatures at Botany Bay. Temperature as a direct effect does not seem to explain the differences in biodiversity between the sites, but an indirect effect through active hours is much more probable. In addition there are negative effects of stresses such as high light and extreme winter cold at Botany Bay.

Research Article
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2010

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Present address: Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, University of Kiel, Olshausenstr. 62, D-24098 Kiel, Germany


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