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.

Schematic illustration of the observation and models required to resolve key uncertainties regarding the impacts of global change on Southern Ocean ecosystems (Newman et al., 2019).
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Theme 6 Priority Observations
SOOS has identified a list of candidates for consideration as EOVs. The SOOS biological variables are candidates to be considered for prioritisation into EOV status.

Key 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
  4. SCAR Life Science Groups
  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)

Major biological energy pathways by which energy moves from primary producers to higher trophic levels in Southern Ocean ecosystems, integrated across seasons and across sea-ice environments (Newman et al., 2019).
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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.