The ACE CRC’s Project R2.2 investigates how Southern Ocean ecosystems are responding to the impacts of climate change.
Previous work by the ACE CRC has identified major changes in the physical and chemical properties of the Southern Ocean, including increasing acidity, warming freshening and changes in sea ice extent. What remains less understood is how these changes will impact on the marine food web.
The science team behind the ACE CRC’s Biological Responses to Environment Change project are investigating the potential tipping points for ecosystems in the Southern Ocean. This includes determining which key species will be more sensitive to change, which species may contribute to change and how change will vary from region to region. These new scientific insights will have important implications for management of fish stocks and high conservation value species throughout the region.
A focus for the research is the critical role of sea ice as habitat for lower food web species such as zooplankton and Antarctic krill. Using a combination of laboratory experiments, field experiments and data modelling, the project team is working to understand the cumulative effects of climate change on these key prey species. This assessment will, in turn, provide the basis for improved estimates of future climate impacts on upper food web species such as birds and mammals.