Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Long-term Research: Loss of Diversity Near Melting Coastal Glaciers

16.11.2015

Sedimentation is impacting an entire ecosystem on the seafloor

Melting glaciers are causing a loss of species diversity among benthos in the coastal waters off the Antarctic Peninsula, impacting an entire seafloor ecosystem.


The glacier's meltwater (Potter Cove, King George Island, Antarctica)

Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute / Anders Torstensson


Benthos communities (Potter Cove, Antarctica)

Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute / Christian Lagger (CONICET)

This has been verified in the course of repeated research dives, the results of which were recently published by experts from Argentina, Germany and Great Britain and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in a study in the journal Science Advances.

The scientists believe increased levels of suspended sediment in the water to be the cause of the dwindling biodiversity in the coastal region. This occurs when the effects of global warming lead glaciers near the coast to begin melting, as a result of which large quantities of sediment are carried into the seawater.

Over the past five decades, temperatures have risen nearly five times as rapidly on the western Antarctic Peninsula than the global average. Yet the impacts of the resulting retreat of glaciers on bottom-dwelling organisms (benthos) remain unclear.

In response, researchers at Dallmann Laboratory are now mapping and analysing the benthos in Potter Cove, located on King George Island off the western Antarctic Peninsula. Here the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA) operate Dallmann Laboratory as part of the Argentinian Carlini Station. Research concerning benthic flora and fauna has been part of the laboratory’s long-term monitoring programme for more than two decades.

In 1998, 2004 and 2010 divers photographed the species communities at three different stations and at different water depths: the first, near the glacier’s edge; the second, an area less directly influenced by the glacier; and the third, in the cove’s minimally affected outer edge. They also recorded the sedimentation rates, water temperatures and other oceanographic parameters at the respective stations, so that they could correlate the biological data with these values.

Their findings: some species are extremely sensitive to higher sedimentation rates. “Particularly tall-growing ascidians like some previously dominant sea squirt species can’t adapt to the changed conditions and die out, while their shorter relatives can readily accommodate the cloudy water and sediment cover,” explains Dr Doris Abele, an AWI biologist and co-author of the study, adding, “The loss of important species is changing the coastal ecosystems and their highly productive food webs, and we still can’t predict the long-term consequences.”

“It was essential to have a basis of initial data, which we could use for comparison with the changes. In the Southern Ocean we began this work comparatively late,” says the study’s first author, marine ecologist Ricardo Sahade from the University of Cordoba and Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council CONICET, who is leading the benthic long-term series. “Combining this series of observations, accompanying ecological research on important Antarctic species, and mathematical modelling allows us to forecast the changes to the ecosystem in future scenarios,” adds co-author Fernando Momo from Argentina’s National University of General Sarmiento.

Dallmann Laboratory at Carlini Station (formerly Jubany Station) was first founded in 1994 as a joint facility by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA). It has since established itself as a trusted research platform for numerous international and interdisciplinary network programmes, which were supported by the European Union and Argentinian funding organisations throughout the past decade.

“Sustainable long-term research and coordinated, interdisciplinary Antarctic research programmes are essential in order to explain the local changes in coastal ecosystems in connection with global warming,” says Doris Abele. She coordinates the ongoing EU project IMCONet (http://www.imconet.eu) at Dallmann Laboratory, just as she did for previous projects like IMCOAST (http://www.imcoast.org), in which the research underlying the current study was conducted. In addition to our Argentinian partners, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Oldenburg also participated in the Science Advances Study.

Original publication:
Ricardo Sahade, Cristian Lagger, Luciana Torre, Fernando Momo, Patrick Monien, Irene Schloss, David K.A. Barnes, Natalia Servetto, Soledad Tarantelli, Marcos Tatián, Nadia Zamboni, Doris Abele: Climate change and glacier retreat drive shifts in an Antarctic benthic ecosystem. Science Advances 2015; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500050

EMBARGOED until Friday, 13 November 2015, 8:00 pm CET, 7:00 London time, 2:00 pm US EST

Notes for Editors:
Printable images can be found following this link: http://multimedia.awi.de/medien/pincollection.jspx?collectionName=%7B6139386e-90...

Your contact partners are Dr Doris Abele (she is travelling at the moment, please send an email to: Doris.Abele(at)awi.de), and at the Department of Communications and Media Relations Dr Folke Mehrtens (phone 0049 471 4831-2007; e-mail: Folke.Mehrtens(at)awi.de).

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans. The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the national and international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Ralf Röchert | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline
16.10.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht WSU researchers document one of planet's largest volcanic eruptions
12.10.2017 | Washington State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>