Breaking up is hard to do, y'all, especially when you're part of a rich ecosystem of plant and animals that thrive under the frozen surface of the Antarctic sea. Evidence shows that ice plays a major role in the marine ecology by reducing light penetration to the waters beneath. So what happens when global warming plays the fifth wheel and starts melting the ice?
Two marine ecologists from the University of New South Wales, Emma Johnston and Graeme Clark, have been working with the Australian Antarctic Division to survey marine communities along the striking coast of Wilkes Land in east Antarctica.Key differences manifest themselves in the composition of marine communities along a gradient of ice cover. "Protected areas subject to prolonged ice-cover are dominated by an invertebrate filter-feeding community of sponges, worms and anemones," says Dr Johnston.
More-exposed areas of the coast, on the other hand, are dominated by canopy-forming and light-loving algae. "If global climate change results in more frequent ice-breakout and reduced ice-cover then these unique protected shallow-water invertebrate communities are likely to be out-competed by algae," says Dr Johnston.