Nav: Home

Northern invaders threaten Antarctic marine life

May 23, 2016

An international study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found evidence that marine life can easily invade Antarctic waters from the north, and could be poised to colonise the rapidly-warming Antarctic marine ecosystems.

The Antarctic Polar Front, a strong ocean front formed where cold Antarctic water meets warmer waters to the north, has historically been seen as a barrier preventing movement of marine life.

But the study has found the Antarctic Polar Front is often crossed by floating kelp that can form rafts carrying crustaceans, worms, snails and other seaweeds across hundreds of kilometres of open ocean.

"So far, the northern species don't seem to be surviving long in the cold, icy Antarctic. But with climate change and warming oceans, many non-Antarctic species could soon colonise the region," said lead researcher Dr Ceridwen Fraser, from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

"We now know marine species from the north can easily get into Antarctic waters. The Antarctic is one of the world's fastest warming regions, and the consequences of new species establishing there could lead to drastic ecosystem changes," Dr Fraser said.

The evidence was collected by surveys of floating kelp. On three different ship voyages in 2008, 2013 and 2014, researchers counted drifting seaweed species in both sub-Antarctic and Antarctic water.

"Although we saw more seaweed north of the Polar Front, we still found lots of kelp in Antarctic water, especially just south of the Front," said co-author Professor Peter Ryan, from the University of Cape Town.

Dr Fraser said the study will help scientists to plan strategies for conserving Antarctica's unique marine life.

"We've been focusing a lot on minimising plants and animals being accidentally carried into the Antarctic by humans, for example with ship ballast water," Dr Fraser said.

"This research shows that some species can also get into the region without our help."
-end-
The research has been published in the journal Ecography.

Australian National University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.