The Future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that surrounds it
January 7, 2021
Assistant Professor Grace Saba was one of several collaborative experts that published this comprehensive assessment of the status quo and future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that surrounds it. See the press release from Alfred Wegener Institute (here) and the paper now published in Biological Reviews: https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12679.
The decade from 2010 to 2020 has been by far the most successful in gaining evidence-based knowledge on ecological processes in the Antarctic. This applies to novel as well as traditional topics. Of particular interest are the reactions of life to climate change and their contributions to global carbon budgets. Equally relevant are evolutionary adaptations to the extremely polar conditions, which under climate change determines the survival or extinction of species. 25 experts met in Coimbra (Portugal) in 2019, synthesized hundreds of individual results from the past ten years and publish now 10 main and 31 detailed messages. In summary, it must be stated that the ecosystems on land and in the ocean are under specific environmental stress and are subject to change in various forms and intensity. And this takes place in ecosystems that are either geographically isolated from the rest of the world and, thus, globally unique, or, alternatively, are more closely linked to adjacent habitats than previously thought. Both are good reasons why in all assessments of global biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles such results from the Antarctic must be considered.
The results show how life in the Antarctic responds differently, but also similarly, to environmental changes, in particular climate-induced warming and ice melting. This refers to species, communities and ecosystems on land, in lakes, under the inland, shelf and sea ice and in the open ocean. Particular challenges are long-term and large-scale observations that can contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the response of key ecological species and processes to climate change, ocean acidification and pollution. They are especially important in a time when climate change seems to affect the entire Antarctic, including areas that have been quite environmentally stable so far.