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Antarctic macrobenthic communities: A compilation of circumpolar information

Latest version published by Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF) on Jul 19, 2012 Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF)

Comprehensive information on Antarctic macrobenthic community structure is publicly available since the 1960s. It stems from trawl, dredge, grab, and corer samples as well as from direct and camera observations (Table 1). The quality of this information varies considerably; it consists of pure descriptions, figures for presence (absence) and abundance of some key taxa or proxies for such parameters, e.g. sea-floor cover. Some data sets even cover a defined and complete proportion of the macrobenthos with further analyses on diversity and zoogeography. As a consequence the acquisition of data from approximately 90 different campaigns assembled here was not standardised. Nevertheless, it was possible to classify this broad variety of known macrobenthic assemblages to the best of experts knowledge (Gutt 2007; Fig. 1). This overview does not replace statistically sound community and diversity analyses. However, it shows from where which kind of information is available and it acts as an example of the feasibility and power of such data collections. The data set provides unique georeferenced biological basic information for the planning of future coordinated research activities, e.g. under the umbrella of the biology program "Antarctic Thresholds - Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation" (AnT-ERA) of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and especially for actual conservation issues, e.g. the planning of Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 861 records.

This IPT archives the data and thus serves as the data repository. The data and resource metadata are available for download in the downloads section. The versions table lists other versions of the resource that have been made publicly available and allows tracking changes made to the resource over time.


Download the latest version of this resource data as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) or the resource metadata as EML or RTF:

Data as a DwC-A file download 861 records in English (68 KB) - Update frequency: unknown
Metadata as an EML file download in English (16 KB)
Metadata as an RTF file download in English (13 KB)


The table below shows only published versions of the resource that are publicly accessible.

How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Gutt J, Barnes DKA, Lockhart S: Antarctic macrobenthic communities: A compilation of circumpolar information


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF). This [DATA(BASE)-NAME] is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License:

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: dd92c709-8f7d-4bf3-9897-901aa88486e5.  Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF) publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.


macrobenthic communities; trawls; dredges; grabs; corers; direct observations (scuba-diving; sea-bed video; sea-bed photography)


Who created the resource:

Julian Gutt

Who can answer questions about the resource:

Julian Gutt

Who filled in the metadata:

Julian Gutt

Who else was associated with the resource:

Barnes David
Senior Scientist
British Anarctic Survey High Cross, Madingley Road CB3 0ET Cambridge GB +44 1223 221613
Susanne J. Lockhart
Contract Scientist
NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center La Jolla Shore Drive CA 92037 La Jolla California US +1 858 334 2852
Anton van de Putte
Science Officer
ANTABIF Vautierstraat 29 B-1000 Brussels Brussels BE

Geographic Coverage

The area generally covers almost the entire Southern Ocean, including some ice-shelf covered sites. The vast majority of information is from shelf areas around the continent at water depth shallower than 800m. Non-ice shelf covered shelf areas can be up to 300km wide or the shelf-edge at 600 to 800m depth can "disappear" beneath the floating ice-shelf. Shallow areas (<50m) are rare because 86% of the coast-line is glaciated or consists of an ice-shelf egde. A non-glaciated coast mainly exists along the Antarctic Peninsula. The coastline is either extremely complex with bays, channels , peninsulas, islands etc or less structured, especially where it is formed by the ice-shelf. Overdeepenend basins (inner-shelf depressions) can reach >1200m water depth. Most islands exist west of the Antarctic Peninsula and along the Scotia Arc linking the Peninsula with the southern tip of South America. The coastal waters are mainly affected by the Antarctic Coastal Current (East Wind Drift), whilst the largest off-shore part of the Southern Ocean is dominated by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (West Wind Drift) with gyres of different size. Sediments are predominantly poorly sorted but also cobble "fields", bedrock and pure soft sediments exist. The Antarctic marine ecosystem is shaped by a distinct seasonality of the sea-ice cover affecting a short and intensive primary production in austral summer, by predominantly stable low temperature to which most organisms are specifically adapted and almost missing terrestrial run-off. Most of the shelf-inhabiting macrobenthic species are endemic; some taxa reach above-average species richness (Clarke & Johnston 2003). Only few marine habitats are protected, most of which are small. Plans and proposals for large Marine Protected Areas (MPA's), e.g. in East Antarctica, in the Ross and Weddell Seas exist and demand good scientific knowledge and data.

Bounding Coordinates South West [-83, -180], North East [-52, 180]

Taxonomic Coverage

Macrobenthic communities have been uploaded in the category "vernacularNames", abbreviations in "taxonRemarks".

Temporal Coverage

Start Date / End Date 1956-03-01 / 2010-02-21

Project Data

No Description available

Title Antarctic macrobenthic communities: A compilation of circumpolar information

The personnel involved in the project:

Julian Gutt

Sampling Methods

This project aggregates data from various expeditions with a full range of benthic sampling methods, such as grabs, corers, dredges, and trawls as well as non-invasive observations by scuba divers, stationary, towed, or ROV-based still and video-cameras. For detail descriptions see original publications in journals or data repositories (Table 1).

Study Extent Southern Ocean with emphasize on coastal shelf areas and some islands without specific temporal patterns of sampling.
Quality Control A first version of the classification of the macrobenthic communities had been published in a peer-reviewed journal (Gutt 2007). A modified version had been published in the Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment report (ACCE, Turner et al. 2009). The actual version is depicted in Fig. 1.

Method step description:

  1. Attribution of the information from the different sources (for references see Table 1) to the classified macrobenthic assemblages (Fig. 1) was done to the best of experts knowledge. The principal parameter, on which theses assumptions have been made was biomass or a proxy for biomass such as sea-floor coverage. Some information on benthic functioning is also included directly or indirectly, e.g. predation, competition, succession after ice-berg scouring, epi-biotic life-mode and oligotrophic conditions under ice shelves.

Collection Data

Collection Name nil
Collection Identifier nil
Parent Collection Identifier nil
Specimen preservation methods Other

Bibliographic Citations

  1. Clarke A, Johnston NM 2003. Antarctic marine benthic diversity. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 41: 47-114 Gutt J 2007. Antarctic macro-zoobenthic communities: a review and an ecological classification. Antarctic Science 9: 165-182 Turner J, Bindschadler R, Convey P, di Prisco G, Fahrbach E, Gutt J, Hodgson D, Mayewsky P, Summerhayes C 2009. Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment. SCAR, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge; 526pp

Additional Metadata

Additional files uploaded: list of references (Table 1) & classification of macrobenthic communities (Fig. 1).