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Colonization and demographic structure of Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis along an altitudinal gradient on Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Author(s): María Luisa Vera

Journal: Polar Research
ISSN 0800-0395

Volume: 30;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Antarctic vascular plants | altitude and habitat effect | colonization | population structure

The colonization capacity and demographic structure of populations of Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis were studied in different microhabitats between 10 and 147 m a.s.l. on Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands, near the Spanish Antarctic base Juan Carlos I, in February 2002. At the highest site (147 m a.s.l.), mean temperatures were about 1°C lower than at sea level. Both species are less common in inland areas and at the highest altitudes only occur at restricted sites that are frequently snow-free in the early austral summer. The diameters of the largest plants (C. quitensis cushions 7–8 cm; D. antarctica tufts 10–11 cm) in the populations growing at the highest altitudes (110 and 147 m a.s.l.) suggest that these populations were established about 24–28 years ago. The largest diameter plants (Deschampsia 20 cm; Colobanthus 18 cm) were found at the lowest altitudes on deep soil. The presence of numerous seedlings and young individuals on the periphery of populations established several years ago or at recently colonized sites suggests an active process of expansion. There were more emerged seedlings of C. quitensis than of D. antarctica, but the density of established individuals was higher for D. antarctica, suggesting these species have different demographic strategies.
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