A new project to be undertaken by scientists from the University of Aberdeen will provide a unique insight into the ecology and biodiversity of seabed communities in Antarctica.
The study, which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), will investigate how seaweeds colonize areas that were covered by Antarctic glaciers for hundreds of thousands of years until recently. The study will also explore how they manage to spend more than half the year in darkness and will assess how the changing conditions throughout the year affect various species living in the ocean.
The work will be based at Rothera (the UK’s major research station in Antarctica).
The research will rely on year round diving surveys by the Rothera Marine Team, which will be initiated by the lead scientists, where they will spend around six weeks assessing marine communities.
Professor Frithjof Kuepper, who is leading the project with Professor Lloyd S. Peck from British Antarctic Survey, and who will be diving himself, said: “This is a very exciting project as it will give us the opportunity to discover more about the biodiversity present in Antarctica – and how it is being affected by the ongoing shrinking of glaciers and ice shelves.
“We also should get new insight how marine plants – which rely on sunlight to drive their metabolism – can survive in half a year of darkness under sea ice and in the polar night.
“The findings from this research will contribute to a better understanding of how ongoing climate change is changing marine biodiversity in areas of shrinking ice shelves of the polar regions – and of the unique adaptations that polar marine life has not just to cope with freezing temperatures, but also prolonged periods of darkness.”