Project Information
Collaborative Research: Fjord Ecosystem Structure and Function on the West Antarctic Peninsula - Hotspots of Productivity and Biodiversity? (FjordEco)
Short Title:
Start Date:
End Date:
Project Location(s)
Andvord Bay
Gerlache Strait
West Antarctic Peninsula Shelf
Antarctic Peninsula
Marine communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula are highly productive ecosystems which support a diverse assemblage of charismatic animals such as penguins, seals, and whales as well as commercial fisheries such as that on Antarctic krill. Fjords (long, narrow, deep inlets of the sea between high cliffs) along the central coast of the Peninsula appear to be intense, potentially climate sensitive, hotspots of biological production and biodiversity, yet the structure and dynamics of these fjord ecosystems are very poorly understood. Because of this intense biological activity and the charismatic fauna it supports, these fjords are also major destinations for a large Antarctic tourism industry. This project is an integrated field and modeling program to evaluate physical oceanographic processes, glacial inputs, water column community dynamics, and seafloor bottom community structure and function in these important yet little understood fjord systems. These Antarctic fjords have characteristics that are substantially different from well-studied Arctic fjords, likely yielding much different responses to climate warming. This project will provide major new insights into the dynamics and climate sensitivity of Antarctic fjord ecosystems, highlighting contrasts with Arctic sub-polar fjords, and potentially transforming our understanding of the ecological role of fjords in the rapidly warming west Antarctic coastal marine landscape. The project will also further the NSF goal of training new generations of scientists, providing scientific training for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students. This includes the unique educational opportunity for undergraduates to participate in research cruises in Antarctica and the development of a novel summer graduate course on fjord ecosystems. Internet based outreach activities will be enhanced and extended by the participation of a professional photographer who will produce magazine articles, websites, radio broadcasts, and other forms of public outreach on the fascinating Antarctic ecosystem.

This project will involve a 15-month field program to test mechanistic hypotheses concerning oceanographic and glaciological forcing, and phytoplankton and benthic community response in the Antarctic fjords. Those efforts will be followed by a coupled physical/biological modeling effort to evaluate the drivers of biogeochemical cycles in the fjords and to explore their potential sensitivity to enhanced meltwater and sediment inputs. Fieldwork over two oceanographic cruises will utilize moorings, weather stations, and glacial, sea-ice and seafloor time-lapse cameras to obtain an integrated view of fjord ecosystem processes. The field team will also make multiple shipboard measurements and will use towed and autonomous underwater vehicles to intensively evaluate fjord ecosystem structure and function during spring/summer and autumn seasons. These integrated field and modeling studies are expected to elucidate fundamental properties of water column and sea bottom ecosystem structure and function in the fjords, and to identify key physical-chemical-glaciological forcing in these rapidly warming ecosystems.
Person Role
Winsor, Peter Investigator
Truffer, Martin Co-Investigator
Smith, Craig Investigator and contact
Powell, Brian Co-Investigator
Merrifield, Mark Co-Investigator
Pan, B. Jack Researcher
Manck, Lauren Researcher
Forsch, Kiefer Researcher
Vernet, Maria Investigator
Kohut, Josh Investigator
Antarctic Integrated System Science Award # 1443733
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1443733
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1443705
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1443680
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Deployment Type
LMG1510 ship expedition
LMG1702 ship expedition
NBP1603 ship expedition
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
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  6. Hahn-Woernle, L., Powell, B., Lundesgaard, Ø., & van Wessem, M. (2020). Sensitivity of the summer upper ocean heat content in a Western Antarctic Peninsula fjord. Progress in Oceanography, 183, 102287. (doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2020.102287)
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