Multi-scale patterns of moss and lichen richness on the Antarctic Peninsula


P. Casanovas, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. E-mail:


Mosses and lichens are the dominant macrophytes of the Antarctic terrestrial ecosystem. Using occurrence data from existing databases and additional published records, we analyzed patterns of moss and lichen species diversity on the Antarctic Peninsula at both a regional scale (1°latitudinal bands) and a local scale (52 and 56 individual snow- and ice-free coastal areas for mosses and lichens, respectively) to test hypothesized relationships between species diversity and environmental factors, and to identify locations whose diversity may be particularly poorly represented by existing collections and online databases. We found significant heterogeneity in sampling frequency, number of records collected, and number of species found among analysis units at the two spatial scales, and estimated species richness using projected species accumulation curves to account for potential biases stemming from sample heterogeneity. Our estimates of moss and lichen richness for the entire Antarctic Peninsula region were within 20% of the total number of known species. Area, latitude, spatial isolation, mean summer temperature, and penguin colony size were considered as potential covariates of estimated species richness. Moss richness was correlated with isolation and latitude at the local scale, while lichen richness was correlated with summer mean temperature and, for 17 sites where penguins where present with <20 000 breeding pairs, penguin colony size. At the regional scale, moss richness was correlated with temperature and latitude. Lichen richness, by contrast, was not significantly correlated with any of the variables considered at the regional scale. With the exception of temperature, which explained 91% of the variation in regional moss diversity, explained variance was very low. Our results show that patterns of moss and lichen biodiversity are highly scale-dependent and largely unexplained by the biogeographic variables found important in other systems.