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Press Release 09-042

Climate-related Changes on the Antarctic Peninsula Being Driven from the Top and the Bottom of the Ecosystem

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Changes in sea ice, melt-off, salt water, and phytoplankton in Antarctic Peninsula, '78-'86, '98-06.

Rapid climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula is known to have affected many facets of the food chain--but a recent study has shown even its very base, the phytoplankton, have responded in two quite contrasting ways based on geographical location.

In the north of the peninsula seasonal sea ice has diminished and retreated. The fresh water melt-off that used to shield the water column from winds is much smaller now. Stronger winds mix the water forcing phytoplankton down to depths where they can no longer photosynthesize or reproduce. The phytoplankton population in the north has vastly diminished.

In the south of the peninsula--the year-round sea ice cover has retreated and diminished. In areas where sunlight could not penetrate enough to sustain a large phytoplankton population--it is now more readily available and phytoplankton populations have gone up.



Credit: Zina Deretsky / NSF


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Cover of March 13, 2009 issue of Science magazine.

The researchers' findings were published in the March 13, 2009, issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Copyright 2009 AAAS


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