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The Role of Lichens in Antarctic Ecosystems

D. C. Lindsay
The Bryologist
Vol. 81, No. 2 (Summer, 1978), pp. 268-276
DOI: 10.2307/3242188
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3242188
Page Count: 9
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The Role of Lichens in Antarctic Ecosystems
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Abstract

Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems can be divided into two main series: those of continental Antarctica and those of the maritime Antarctic. Within the former series, plant "communities" exist as isolated groupings of plants growing under a severe continental polar-desert climate and appear to be similar to communities of the High Arctic (e.g. the interior plateau of Devon Island). Communities in the maritime Antarctic region are more diverse, with less severe environmental conditions, and show affinities with lichen communities occupying similar habitats in boreal-Arctic zones of the northern hemisphere. Roles played by lichens in the two series of ecosystems are influenced considerably by environmental conditions and in continental Antarctica are often completely subordinated to physical processes. Weathering of substrata, for instance, in continental Antarctica, consists of the operation of several physical processes with lichens playing an insignificant role. It is only in the more suitable habitats found in the maritime Antarctic that lichens are able to play their full role in the development and functioning of ecosystems.

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