Anthropogenic disturbance and biodiversity of marine benthic communities in Antarctica

Stark, J. S., Kim, S. L., & Oliver, J. S. (2014). Anthropogenic disturbance and biodiversity of marine benthic communities in Antarctica: A regional comparison, 9(6).
TitleAnthropogenic disturbance and biodiversity of marine benthic communities in Antarctica
AuthorsJ. Stark, S. Kim, J. Oliver
AbstractThe impacts of two Antarctic stations in different regions, on marine sediment macrofaunal communities were compared: McMurdo, a very large station in the Ross Sea; and Casey, a more typical small station in East Antarctica. Community structure and diversity were compared along a gradient of anthropogenic disturbance from heavily contaminated to uncontaminated locations. We examined some of the inherent problems in comparing data from unrelated studies, such as different sampling methods, spatial and temporal scales of sampling and taxonomic uncertainty. These issues generated specific biases which were taken into account when interpreting patterns. Control sites in the two regions had very different communities but both were dominated by crustaceans. Community responses to anthropogenic disturbance (sediment contamination by metals, oils and sewage) were also different. At McMurdo the proportion of crustaceans decreased in disturbed areas and polychaetes became dominant, whereas at Casey, crustaceans increased in response to disturbance, largely through an increase in amphipods. Despite differing overall community responses there were some common elements. Ostracods, cumaceans and echinoderms were sensitive to disturbance in both regions. Capitellid, dorvelleid and orbiniid polychaetes were indicative of disturbed sites. Amphipods, isopods and tanaids had different responses at each station. Biodiversity and taxonomic distinctness were significantly lower at disturbed locations in both regions. The size of the impact, however, was not related to the level of contamination, with a larger reduction in biodiversity at Casey, the smaller, less polluted station. The impacts of small stations, with low to moderate levels of contamination, can thus be as great as those of large or heavily contaminated stations. Regional broad scale environmental influences may be important in determining the composition of communities and thus their response to disturbance, but there are some generalizations regarding responses which will aid future management of stations. © 2014 Stark et al.