Antarctic Icebergs Creating New Ecosystems

Scientists have discovered that the recent surge in the number of Antarctic icebergs, prompted by rising temperatures, has resulted in the creation of vast new ecosystems of plankton, seabirds and krill. They believe they could play a key role in absorbing the excess carbon dioxide emissions driving global warming.

By using photosynthesis, the species in these ecosystems are able to take carbon from the atmosphere and convert it into carbohydrates and, thus, new life. "I think it can be a substantial contribution" to reducing carbon dioxide levels, Kenneth Smith Jr. of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the project's leader, said. "These things have been ignored forever."

The icebergs form when glaciers moving across Antarctica are broken up through the accumulation of dust and nutrient-rich dirt. This nutrient-rich dirt provides a key source of nutrients to support the proliferation of plankton and algae. Krill feed on the plankton and seabirds, such as Cape petrels and Antarctic fulmars, in turn feed on the krill.Based on data they obtained from satellite imagery, they counted 962 ice islands in an area of approximately 4,000 square miles near their study area which led them to conclude that close to 39% of the region could contain these floating iceberg communities.

While promising, these results don't necessarily indicate that icebergs play an essential role in regulating global carbon dynamics. "While icebergs may be important on a local scale, I seriously doubt that their impact needs to be accounted for in global carbon budgets," said Kevin R. Arrigo, a geophysicist at Stanford University not involved in the study.

Via ::Proliferating icebergs creating ecosystems (newspaper)

See also: ::Aliens of the Deep, ::Antarctic Warming to Reduce Animals at Base of Ecosystem, Shift Penguin Populations, ::Break-up Of Antarctic Ice May Expose Marine Life To More Sunlight, Alter Food Chain, ::Breaking: Possible Environmental Disaster in Antarctica

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