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Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial habitats of Antarctica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2005

Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA,


Are we failing to acknowledge the impact of global changes (e.g. UVB, invasive species, climate, land use, atmosphere) on the terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem processes of Antarctica? Antarctica is considered a pristine environment and has low terrestrial species diversity and trophic complexity, and yet while scientifically possible, we still do not know the number of species, where they are, or how their influence on ecosystem processes (e.g. nutrient cycling, carbon flux, decomposition, feedbacks to climate, hydrology) will be affected by multiple global changes. Increased recognition of human dependence on services provided by biodiversity and ecosystem functioning combined with documented impacts of global change already occurring on Antarctic soil ecosystems, increases the urgency to expand investigations regionally in Antarctica. We cannot measure the effects of global change or sustainably manage Antarctica's future if we underestimate the contribution of soil communities. Evidence indicates habitats of rocky moraines, soils and cyroconite holes of glaciers in the continental interior may host not only microbes, but also a complexity of algae and invertebrates. Scientists of many disciplines, together, need to assess the benefits humans derive from Antarctic terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem processes, how these will be affected by global change, and link their findings to the rest of the world.

Research Article
© Antarctic Science Ltd 2005

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