Southern Ocean Ecosystem

Impacts of global change on Southern Ocean ecosystems

A better understanding of the impact of global change on Southern Ocean ecosystems is essential to guide conservation and marine resource management decisions (Clarke et al., 2007; Barnes and Peck, 2008). Our ability to predict changes in marine resources and biodiversity, to assess ecosystem resilience, and determine feedbacks between food webs and biogeochemical cycling depends on sustained, integrated observations of key physical, chemical and biological parameters. High-priority variables to measure include primary production, distribution and abundance of key species and/or functional groups, benthic community structure, top predator abundance, distribution (both geographical and in relation to physical structure) and diet. Simultaneous measurements of the physical and chemical environments are needed, including carbonate system variables, temperature, salinity, mixed layer depth, wind speed and direction, meteorological conditions, sea ice conditions, currents and nutrients. Studies of predator species can reveal “hot spots” of foraging activity (or Areas of Ecological Significance) and changes in foraging and demographic parameters that reflect changes in lower trophic levels (e.g. zooplankton, fish and squid) that are difficult to observe directly.


Priority Observations

At the 2013 Scientific Steering Committee meeting in Shanghai, China, the SOOS Steering Committee identified the top gaps in observations for each of the 6 SOOS Science Themes that should be identified as "priority observations" for the coming years. SOOS encourages the community to develop field initiatives to address these key gaps and to highlight their contribution to the international SOOS effort through SOOS endorsement or other connections.


Theme 6 Priority Observations:

  • Standardised biological sampling
  • Sampling offshore from land-based activities (e.g., integration across land to marine observations)
  • Improved capability on ships (e.g., CPR, acoustics, predator tracking/diet)

Observation Platforms

Animal sensors, sighting surveys and cameras, CPR, Underway sampling, moorings, ROV and imaging methods, remote sensing, Acoustics, Trawls/nets, bottom landers/corers

Key Communities


  1. Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics (ICED)
  2. Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
  3. SCAR Action Group on Ocean Acidification



  1. CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP)
  2. Palmer LTER
  3. Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole (MEOP)
  4. Rothera Time Series (RaTS)
  5. Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder (SO-CPR)


Key Documents

Cited References

  1. Barnes, D.K.A., and Peck, L.S., 2008: Vulnerability of Antarctic shelf biodiversity to predicted regional warming,Climate Research
  2. Clark, P.U., Pisias, N.G., Stocker, T.F. and Weaver, A.J., 2002: The role of the thermohaline circulation in abrupt climate change,Nature, 415: 863-869.
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