Antarctic environmental change and biological responses
Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean are facing complex environmental change. Their native biota has adapted to the region’s extreme conditions over many millions of years. This unique biota is now challenged by environmental change and the direct impacts of human activity. The terrestrial biota is characterized by considerable physiological and ecological flexibility and is expected to show increases in productivity, population sizes and ranges of individual species, and community complexity. However, the establishment of non-native organisms in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems may present an even greater threat than climate change itself. In the marine environment, much more limited response flexibility means that even small levels of warming are threatening. Changing sea ice has large impacts on ecosystem processes, while ocean acidification and coastal freshening are expected to have major impacts.