Will arctic reefs disappear with ongoing global change?

Pyko I, Munnecke A, Teichert S (2019)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Conference contribution, Abstract of a poster

Publication year: 2019

Event location: Würzburg DE


The coralline red algal species Lithothamnion glaciale forms rigid frameworks of magnesium calcite. In the high Arctic, these so-called rhodoliths cover large areas of the Svalbard shelf. Thereby, the calcified structures act as ecosystem engineers, comparable to corals in tropical regions, providing habitat for a large variety of organisms. Furthermore, drilled by boring mussels, many rhodoliths become hollow ecospheres and their interior is intensely colonized by benthic macro- and megafauna. Within this study, we investigate whether the distribution pattern of these arctic reefs will be affected by ongoing global change. Rhodolith beds occur worldwide and have similar ecological impact. Because the effects of global change are projected to be most severe and fast within the Arctic, this ecosystem represents a very appropriate model also for the global impact on rhodolith communities.

This study involves rhodolith beds around the Svalbard shelf in the high Arctic.

The distribution of L. glaciale is linked to local ranges of physical parameters like temperature, pH, light regime, and salinity. Following the RCP scenarios provided by the IPCC, we estimate the influence of anticipated large-scale shifts on the rhodoliths. Based on these results, we analyse the future functioning of rhodoliths as niche-providing ecosystem engineers.

The first results of this ongoing study indicate that increasing temperatures enhance the respiration of the algae. However, this effect will be outcompeted by reduced water transparency – and therefore reduced photosynthesis – induced by deglaciation.

Main conclusions:
The geographical distribution of Arctic rhodolith beds is threatened by global change. Due to their key role as ecosystem engineers, this might also result in a decrease of Arctic biodiversity.

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How to cite


Pyko, I., Munnecke, A., & Teichert, S. (2019). Will arctic reefs disappear with ongoing global change? Poster presentation at macro 2019 – Bridging local patterns and global challenges, Würzburg, DE.


Pyko, Ines, Axel Munnecke, and Sebastian Teichert. "Will arctic reefs disappear with ongoing global change?" Presented at macro 2019 – Bridging local patterns and global challenges, Würzburg 2019.

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