Overview of coralline red algal crusts and rhodolith beds (Corallinales, Rhodophyta) and their possible ecological importance in Greenland

Helle Jørgensbye, Jochen Halfar

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Coralline red algae are a globally distributed and abundant group of shallow marine benthic calcifiers. They can form important ecosystems that provide a three-dimensional habitat to a large variety of marine organisms. While the study of coralline red algae has traditionally been focused on warm-water habitats, numerous recent reports have now described widespread coralline red algal ecosystems from high-latitude regions, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it is becoming increasingly evident that coralline red algae are likely the dominant marine calcifying organisms on the seafloor of the Arctic and subarctic photic zone. This article gives a first overview of the distribution of coralline red algal crusts and rhodolith (free-living coralline red algal nodules) grounds in Greenland and the first report of rhodoliths in East Greenland. Museum data and recent sampling information have been compiled to develop a distribution map of coralline genera and rhodolith communities. The depth range of coralline red algae in Greenland has been extended by 27 m, from 50 to 77 m depth. In addition, rhodoliths of the normally crust-forming species Clathromorphum compactum are described for the first time from a sheltered Greenland fjord. Based on the data compiled here, it becomes clear that rhodolith communities are a widespread feature of the Greenland shallow shelf areas. Gaining a better understanding of the distribution of these hitherto poorly understood high-latitude ecosystems is essential due to their function as spawning areas and nursery grounds for commercially important fish and invertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolar Biology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)517-531
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)
  • Clathromorphum compactum
  • Coralline red algae
  • Greenland
  • Maërl
  • Rhodoliths

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