Scientists Living Beneath Antarctica’s Sea Ice
A group of scientists have been living and beneath Antarctica’s sea ice, in their attempt to explore life forms which call that unreachable place home. Scientists from New Zealand and Finland have spent the last six weeks diving beneath Antarctica’s sea ice.
The group is called Science Under the Ice and their mission is to discover how Antarctic seafloor ecosystems are being reshaped due to climate change. The place for exploration is the southernmost marine ecosystem on Earth and its location is right beneath Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.
Last visit conducted by these scientists took place back in 2009, and now, 8 years later, things are looking completely different on the ocean floor.
“The most interesting finding so far is that it seems that changes in Antarctic seafloor communities can be unexpectedly rapid,” says expedition member Joanna Norkko. “What used to be a sparse and food-deprived animal community on the seafloor is now much richer with more species and higher densities of animals. The difference is striking.”
“The rich community now observed is most likely a rapid response to the sea ice breaking out two years in a row, resulting in more light and higher productivity in the ecosystem”
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“Occasional events like the breakout of sea ice provide important insights into how the ecology of the seafloor will respond to global warming,” the researchers say.
“Rather it shows that the marine ecosystem is very strongly dependent on sea-ice conditions and that changes may happen fast,” she mentioned. “We cannot yet predict what these changes will lead to in the future.”
“Diving in Antarctica is fantastic,” Joanna Norkko said. “The water is usually crystal clear at this time of the year and visibility can be hundreds of meters. Above the surface, Antarctica is rather white, with just snow, ice, rock and a few penguins and seals, but underneath the ice, there is a rich and unique seafloor community.”