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Ultraviolet radiation and consumer effects on a field-grown intertidal macroalgal assemblage in Antarctica


Katharina Zacher, fax +49 471 48311425, e-mail:


Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) research on marine macroalgae has hithero focussed on physiological effects at the organism level, while little is known on the impact of UV radiation on macroalgal assemblages and even less on interactive effects with other community drivers, e.g. consumers. Field experiments on macrobenthos are scarce, particularly in the Antarctic region. Therefore, the effects of UVR and consumers (mainly limpets were excluded) on early successional stages of a hard bottom macroalgal community on King George Island, Antarctica, were studied. In a two-factorial design experimental units [(1) ambient radiation, 280–700 nm; (2) ambient minus UVB, 320–700 nm and (3) ambient minus UVR, 400–700 nm vs. consumer–no consumer] were installed between November 2004 and March 2005 (n= 4 plus controls). Dry mass, species richness, diversity and composition of macroalgal assemblages developing on ceramic tiles were followed. Consumers significantly suppressed green algal recruits and total algal biomass but increased macroalgal richness and diversity. Both UVA and UVB radiation negatively affected macroalgal succession. UVR decreased the density of Monostroma hariotii germlings in the first 10 weeks of the experiment, whereas the density of red algal recruits was significantly depressed by UVR at the end of the study. After 106 days macroalgal diversity was significantly higher in UV depleted than in UV-exposed assemblages. Furthermore, species richness was significantly lower in the UV treatments and species composition differed significantly between the UV-depleted and the UV-exposed treatment. Marine macroalgae are very important primary producers in coastal ecosystems, serving as food for herbivores and as habitat for many organisms. Both, UVR and consumers significantly shape macroalgal succession in the Antarctic intertidal. Consumers, particularly limpets can mediate negative effects of ambient UVR on richness and diversity till a certain level. UVB radiation in general and an increase of this short wavelength due to stratospheric ozone depletion in particular may have the potential to affect the zonation, composition and diversity of Antarctic intertidal seaweeds altering trophic interactions in this system.