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Chert and silicified wood from the Permian through Cretaceous of Antarctica contain abundant information on fungal diversity and plant–fungal interactions. The chert deposits represent a particularly interesting setting for the study of plant–fungal interactions because they preserve remains of distinctive high latitude forest ecosystems with polar light regimes that underwent a profound climate change from icehouse to greenhouse conditions. Moreover, some of the cherts and wood show the predominance of extinct groups of seed plants (e.g. Glossopteridales, Corystospermales). Over the past 30 years, documentation of fossil fungi from Antarctica has shifted from a by-product of plant descriptive studies to a focused research effort. This paper critically reviews the published record of fungi and fungal associations and interactions in the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic cherts and silicified wood from Antarctica; certain fungal palynomorphs and fungal remains associated with adpression fossils and cuticles are also considered. Evidence of mutualistic (mycorrhizal), parasitic and saprotrophic fungi associated with plant roots, stems, leaves and reproductive organs is presented, together with fungi occurring within the peat matrix and animal–fungus interactions. Special attention is paid to the morphology of the fungi, their systematic position and features that can be used to infer fungal nutritional modes.
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.
The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, and subsequent fast ice expansion has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food. This has provided a natural experiment to investigate the impact of iceberg stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast. As part of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013–14, the Adélie penguin colony at Cape Denison was censused to compare to historic counts. Whilst some 5520 pairs still bred at Cape Denison there has been an order of magnitude decline in Adélie numbers in the area in comparison to the first counts a century ago and, critically, recent estimates based on satellite images and a census in 1997. In contrast, an Adélie population on the eastern fringe of Commonwealth Bay just 8 km from the fast ice edge was thriving, indicating the arrival of B09B and fast ice expansion was probably responsible for the observed recent population decline. In conclusion, the Cape Denison population could be extirpated within 20 years unless B09B relocates or the now perennial fast ice within the bay breaks out. Our results have important implications for wider East Antarctic if the current increasing sea ice trend continues.
We extend a previous analysis of Antarctic tour ship vessel traffic to include 20 years of commercial cruise activity (1993/94–2012/13) using recently digitized historical records and new data on vessel landings since 2008/09. Using tourism statistics from 1989/90–2013/14, we also examine trends in passenger numbers, landings and the nationalities of passengers travelling to the Antarctic Peninsula region. This study represents the most comprehensive long-term perspective on how tour ship activity has changed spatially and temporally over a period in which visitation has grown ten-fold. Passenger landings and marine traffic are highly concentrated at a few specific locations, particularly along the Peninsula’s south-western coast. Antarctic tourism activity is closely correlated with measures of economic activity in those countries contributing the largest numbers of visitors to the region. The nationalities of Antarctic tourists have shifted over the years, particularly with respect to an increasing number of visitors from China. Since emerging markets for Antarctic travel are probably far from saturated, interest in travelling to Antarctica will probably continue to grow. Understanding visitation patterns will focus efforts to monitor potential anthropogenic impacts and inform management decisions regarding activities in and around the Antarctic region.
Polinices marambioensis is a naticid gastropod which is the most common constituent in fossil accumulations in the upper section of the Cucullaea I Allomember (Middle Eocene) of the La Meseta Formation in James Ross Basin, Antarctic Peninsula. This species was an important predator of infaunal bivalves and gastropods, including other naticids. The aim of this work was to assess the pattern of predation and cannibalistic behaviour of P. marambioensis. A total of 2648 specimens of P. marambioensis were examined for drill holes, which were assigned to Oichnus paraboloides. Drilling frequency data were measured as a proxy for predation intensity and statistical analyses were performed. Further, the site of each drill hole was established according to the morphological features of the shell on each specimen to assess possible preference of predators for the site of perforation. Results suggest that P. marambioensis is an efficient cannibalistic predator for a specific size range of prey (8–22 mm), and drill holes are distributed preferentially in two specific sectors of their shells. This selective cannibalistic prey behaviour in P. marambioensis affected not only the dynamics of their populations but the ecological structure of the community in which they lived.
In this study, snow particle size variability was investigated along a transect in Dronning Maud Land from the coast to the polar plateau. The aim of the study was to better understand the spatial and temporal variations in surface snow properties. Samples were collected twice daily during a traverse in 2007–08 to capture regional variability. Local variability was assessed by sampling in 10×10 m grids (5 m spacing) at selected locations. The particle size and shape distributions for each site were analysed through digital image analysis. Snow particle size variability is complex at different scales, and shows an internal variability of 0.18–3.31 mm depending on the sample type (surface, grid or pit). Relationships were verified between particle size and both elevation and distance to the coast (moisture source). Regional seasonal changes were also identified, particularly on the lower elevations of the polar plateau. This dataset may be used to quantitatively analyse the optical properties of surface snow for remote sensing. The details of the spatial and temporal variations observed in our data provide a basis for further studies of the complex and coupled processes affecting snow particle size and the interpretation of remote sensing of snow covered areas.