New research published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution reveals the global importance of southern marine ecosystems.
Andrea Navarro, IDEAL Center. The ecological processes of the Southern Ocean are often considered isolated from the rest of the global system. Historically, a part of the scientific community has suggested that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) acts as a biological barrier, preventing the crossing of species from the southern hemisphere to the white continent.
However, about three years ago, a team of experts from different countries began gathering scientific evidence that refutes this assertion. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, reveals the global importance of ecosystems and the biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean. According to the work, the processes that occur in the Antarctic atmosphere and the cryosphere directly influence the global atmospheric and ocean systems.
“The reason that started this work is that we realized that there is still the conception that southern ecosystems are not connected to the rest of the planet. For example, some global investigations related to the biodiversity of ecosystems do not directly consider the Southern Ocean,” assures the oceanographer of the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) the Austral University of Chile (UACh) and academic of the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso (PUCV), Dr. Juan Höfer.
To carry out the research, the scientists evaluated the degree of ecological connectivity at different trophic levels, linking the ecosystems of the Southern Ocean with the rest of the oceans. They also considered the connections of the human system, including the role of this ecosystem in supporting the society, culture, and economy of many nations.
The researchers calculated the number of cetaceans and birds that migrate to the white continent every year (8.05 and 18 billion tons annually, respectively.) At the same time, 55,489 tourists visit Antarctica during one season. Human travel in and out of the region includes fishing, tourist and scientific vessels in all ocean sectors. As a result of extensive connectivity, future changes in the Southern Ocean ecosystems will have consequences throughout the Earth system, affecting ecosystem services with socio-economic impacts around the world.
“Knowledge on Southern Ocean ecosystems and its global connectivity is essential to interpret current climate change, project its future impacts, and identify integrated strategies to conserve and manage both this area and the planet in general,” concludes Dr. Höfer.
Read the research here.