The predicted break-up of Antarctica's ice shelves due to global warming may trigger a major change in the marine food chain, by exposing its coastal seas to sunlight, according to new research by UNSW scientists.
In one of the most comprehensive field studies of its kind, UNSW divers have found that the darkness in the shallow coastal sea beneath the ice now favours a rich array of plant and animal species usually found in the ocean depths, where similarly dark conditions prevail.
"It's now clear that ice plays a major role in the ecology of shallow Antarctic marine systems, by reducing light penetration to the waters beneath," says marine ecologist Dr Emma Johnston, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who is leading the research team. She and doctoral researcher Graeme Clark have been working with the Australian Antarctic Division to survey marine communities along the coast of Wilkes Land, east Antarctica.
For more on this story, visit the Faculty of Science website.
Image copyright: Graeme Clark