The influence of depth and season on the benthic communities of a Macrocystis pyrifera forest in the Falkland Islands

Emma C. Beaton, Frithjof C. Küpper, Pieter van West, Paul E. Brewin, Paul Brickle* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Information on the ecology of invertebrate communities populating Macrocystis pyrifera forests in the Falkland Islands is scarce. Indeed, the factors influencing diversity, distribution and community structure have never been studied here. Benthic photoquadrats were collected along three permanent 20 m transects at three depth strata (shallow 5–10 m; middle 10–15 m; deep 15–20 m) off the coast of Kidney Island, Falkland Islands from Austral summer 2009 to Austral spring 2010. 146 taxa comprising 10 phyla and 21 classes were recorded during the surveys, with the most abundant sessile and vagile taxa being Spirorbinid worms and the hermit crab Pagurus comptus, respectively. Community structure was influenced by depth, with highest species richness in the middle depth stratum, and strong contrasts between the communities in the shallow and deep depth strata. Influence of season on community structure was evident, though not as strong a factor as depth. Spring and summer months were most species rich, demonstrating a difference between the shallow subtidal regions of Patagonia where species richness was reported to be highest in Austral autumn and winter. The effect of substrate and depth was also investigated for the abundance of individual taxa. This study provides the first description of the fauna and flora of shallow rocky reefs in the Falkland Islands, describing how these communities change over small spatial and temporal scales. The outcomes of this investigation contribute to better understanding ecological patterns of the Falklands shallow benthic environments and adds knowledge to the biogeography of the South Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-586
Number of pages14
JournalPolar Biology
Early online date9 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors are grateful to the Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) for carrying out all surveys for this study and for their assistance in the identification of taxa. We are particularly thankful to Steve Cartwright, Dr Judith Brown, Dr Karen Neely, Dr Wetjens Dimmlich, Steve Brown, Dion Poncet, Dr Vladimir Laptikhovsky, Simon Browning, Sarah Browning and Richard McKee. Thanks are extended to the Falkland Islands Government, South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute, University of Aberdeen and RBC Ltd (Red Back Consultants) for their support through funding this project. We would like to thank the Shackleton Scholarship Fund (for travel grants to FCK to the Falkland Islands) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (program Oceans 2025 – WP 4.5 and grants NE/D521522/1 and NE/J023094/1 to FCK). This work also received support from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) pooling initiative. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions. Finally, we would like to thank the BBSRC for financial support to PvW (BB/P020224/1 & BB/M010996/1).


  • Falkland islands
  • Macrocystis pyrifera
  • Benthic community ecology
  • Bathymetric
  • Temporal scales
  • Falkland Islands


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