The Biological Environment

The Antarctic soil biological environment is known from many studies including those of Gressitt (1967), Cameron (1971), Holdgate (1977), Friedmann (1982), Broady (1996), Powers et al. (1995), Vishniac (1996) and Green et al. (1999); see also Chaps. 9-12 in this book. The terrestrial biota have a sporadic occurrence, being found only in very small areas where there is sufficient light, water, warmth and shelter from wind. Biodiversity is extremely low, and diminishes with increasing severity of climatic conditions. Primary producers are bryophytes, lichens, cyanobacteria and algae, and terrestrial fauna include collembola, mites and groups of microscopic organisms. In the warmer Antarctic Peninsula and other maritime areas, lichen, moss and vascular plants form communities that may give rise to peat formation, with soils that are modified by incorporation of organic matter (Blume et al. 1997). Elsewhere, and also apart from penguin nesting areas, there is no organic influence on the soils.

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