In one of those research studies that exposes an area of change that you would have never expected, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey have found that colonies of tiny marine creatures living on Antarctica’s seabed are suffering from climate change as a result of the increase in frequency of icebergs pounding the seafloor.
Icebergs are pounding the shallow seafloor because there is a diminishing amount of sea ice to keep the icebergs away.
As a result, the life expectancy of these creatures – bryozoans (Fenestrulina rugula) – has been reduced by half, from an average of five years to now rarely being able to reach the age of two or three.
“The marine creatures living on the Southern Ocean seabed comprise the vast majority (80%) of the biodiversity known around Antarctica,” said lead author, Dr David Barnes from BAS. “Disturbance by icebergs can promote biodiversity across large areas by creating new space, but it can have catastrophic effects on biodiversity locally — it is becoming too frequent in the shallows for life to recover.”
The bryozoans are one of the most abundant animals in the shallows around the Rothera Research station, and most are now dying before they reach an age where they can reproduce.
This doesn’t just affect the life of the bryozoans, but could also impact the carbon storage abilities of the oceans, as these animals may be an important carbon sink in the Southern Ocean. Take away their ability to reproduce and their numbers diminish, as does the possible intake of carbon.
Source: British Antarctic Survey