Krill Loss Could Be Catastrophic For Polar Food Chain

Krill Loss Could Be Catastrophic For Polar Food Chain

Changes in wind and sea ice cover in the rapidly warming Western Antarctic Peninsula have the potential to affect the food chain—from single-cell organisms to the humpback whale.

“The more we understand how the physical environment is tied to the food web, the better we will understand how long-term changes in climate will impact the ecosystem,” says Grace Saba, the study’s lead author.

Saba, an assistant research professor in the School of Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, examined the correlation between changes in climate and the abundance of marine life over a 21-year period. It’s one of the few instances where marine researchers have a dataset of sufficient length and detail to reveal how climate signals can affect a polar food web.

Domino Effect

Rutgers scientists began studying the fast-changing region in 1991. Saba’s co-authors include Oscar Schofield, a professor of marine science. Saba and Schofield are members of the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research program.

The program conducts annual shipboard surveys along the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, including the coastal ocean near Palmer Station, one of the three US research stations in Antarctica. The station was established more than two decades ago to study changes and processes that couldn’t be captured in a single expedition or research cruise.

At the center of the study published in Nature Communications is the belt of low pressure, experienced as westerly winds, that surrounds the Antarctic continent. The belt, called the Southern Annular Mode or Antarctic Oscillation, moves north and south on a four- to six-year cycle, which affects physical factors such as wind and sea ice cover.

“There’s a domino effect: changes in large-scale patterns, changes in wind and sea ice, and then changes in phytoplankton, at the bottom of the web,” says Saba.

Phytoplankton are the main food for krill, the tiny crustaceans that sustain many species, including fish and whales. When the Southern Annular Mode is negative (high pressure over the Antarctic, low pressure over mid-latitudes), cold southerly winds blow across the peninsula, sea ice cover increases and phytoplankton multiply, leading to higher krill recruitment—the addition of new, young individuals into the krill population—according to Saba’s research.

In contrast, during a positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode, there is less ice, less phytoplankton and lower krill recruitment, which means less food for all other animals up the food chain.

“Krill live five to seven years,” Saba says. “Their evolution could be tied to cycles in the Southern Annular Mode. If they have a good year, that’s great. But if they miss even one cycle, that could be catastrophic to their population.”

The National Science Foundation helps support Palmer Station research.

Source: Rutgers University , Original Study

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.