RAPID: Collaborative Research: Marine Ecosystem Response to the Larsen C Ice-Shelf Breakout: "Time zero"
Marine ecosystems under large ice shelves are thought to contain sparse, low-diversity plankton and seafloor communities due the low supply of food from productive sunlight waters. Past studies have shown sub-ice shelf ecosystems to change in response to altered oceanographic processes resulting from ice-shelve retreat. However, information on community changes and ecosystem structure under ice shelves are limited because sub-ice-shelf ecosystems have either been sampled many years after ice-shelf breakout, or have been sampled through small boreholes, yielding extremely limited spatial information. The recent breakout of the A-68 iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf in the western Weddell Sea provides an opportunity to use a ship-based study to evaluate benthic communities and water column characteristics in an area recently vacated by a large overlying ice shelf. The opportunity will allow spatial assessments at the time of transition from an under ice-shelf environment to one initially exposed to conditions more typical of a coastal Antarctic marine setting. \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis RAPID project will help determine the state of a coastal Antarctic ecosystem newly exposed from ice-shelf cover and will aid in understanding of rates of community change during transition. The project will conduct a 10-day field program, allowing contrasts to be made of phytoplankton and seafloor megafaunal communities in areas recently exposed by ice-shelf loss to areas exposed for many decades. The project will be undertaken in a collaborative manner with the South Korean Antarctic Agency, KOPRI, by participating in a cruise in March/May 2018. Combining new information in the area of Larsen C with existing observations after the Larsen A and B ice shelf breakups further to the north, the project is expected to generate a dataset that can elucidate fundamental processes of planktonic and benthic community development in transition from food-poor to food-rich ecosystems. The project will provide field experience to two graduate students, a post-doctoral associate and an undergraduate student. Material from the project will be incorporated into graduate courses and the project will communicate daily work and unfolding events through social media and blogs while they explore this area of the world that is largely underexplored.
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