Climate change affects marine animals on Antarctica's seabed

Sep 26, 2011
Iceberg scouring the seabed

A rapid increase in the frequency of icebergs pounding the shallow seafloor around the West Antarctic Peninsula — as a result of shrinking winter sea ice — has caused the life expectancy of a tiny marine creature (bryozoans) to halve over the last 12 years. This is the first evidence of regional climate warming affecting marine animals living on the Southern Ocean seabed. The results are published this month in the journal Nature Climate Change and are being presented this week at the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity (WCMB) in Aberdeen.

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) describe how colonies of bryozoans (Fenestrulina rugula) — one of the most abundant animals in the shallows around Rothera Research station — are unable to recover from frequent iceberg scouring. Twelve years ago colonies could live to five years old but now they rarely reach two or three years of age — and most die before they are able to reproduce. Seabed life, such as bryozoans, may be an important carbon sink in the Southern Ocean, and their early deaths could signal wider, severe consequences on the whole ecosystem, with more carbon being released back into the sea.

Lead author, Dr. David Barnes from BAS, says: “The marine creatures living on the seabed comprise the vast majority (80%) of the biodiversity known around Antarctica. Disturbance by can promote biodiversity across large areas by creating new space, but it can have catastrophic effects on biodiversity locally — it is becoming too frequent in the shallows for life to recover.”

The researchers examined concrete markers showing the rate of iceberg scouring — placed on the seabed by BAS SCUBA divers — as well as bryozoan encrusted rocks situated near them (with tens of thousands of colonies per square metre). In addition, collections of historical records of winter sea ice (called fast-ice) around Rothera Research Station showed a clear link between fast-ice loss and impacts on experimental markers on the seabed.

It’s likely that iceberg scouring has similarly increased in other areas of winter loss which means that increasing mortality of seabed creatures could become widespread.

Explore further: Switzerland 1st country to submit pledge for UN climate pact

More information: The paper Reduced survival of Antarctic benthos linked to climate induced iceberg scouring by David KA Barnes and Terri Souster is published in Nature Climate Change. www.nature.com/nclimate/index.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

First comprehensive 'inventory' of life in Antarctica

Dec 01, 2008

The first comprehensive "inventory" of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands reveals a region that is rich in biodiversity and has more species than the Galapagos. The study provides an important benchmark ...

Recommended for you

Engineers are making strides in reducing air pollution

Feb 27, 2015

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average adult breathes 3,000 gallons of air per day—yet the same air that fuels our bodies also can harm them. In fact, inhaling certain air pollutants ...

Depth of plastic pollution in oceans revealed

Feb 27, 2015

Wind and waves can mix buoyant ocean plastics throughout the water column, but most of their mass remains at the sea surface, according to research led by The University of Western Australia.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (7) Sep 26, 2011
Climate change affects marine animals


Earth's climate has always changed because Earth's heat source is a variable star that is heated mostly by neutron repulsion in an ill-tempered pulsar core [1]!

That is why life continues to evolve and cannot be controlled by politicians or their scientific advisors.

1. "Origin and Evolution of Life Constraints on the Solar
Model", Journal of Modern Physics 2, 587-594 (2011)

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
http://myprofile....anuelo09

http://dl.dropbox...5079.pdf
Who_Wants_to_Know
2 / 5 (4) Sep 26, 2011
RECIPEE
Ingredients:
Use very short overall timespan (12 years isn't enough for statistical significance in climate temperature changes, but it is for evaluating lifespan changes in an entire species?); use timespan to evaluate lifespan of species whose maximum known lifespan is half your evaluation time; use only one small local area with significant difference to the rest of the environment (shallows vs sea), but extrapolate to entire species

Actions:
If, maybe, possibly, might, if, if, if

Results:
Just So Story! All with liberal seasonings of sensationalism for your reading pleasure thrown in.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.