Benthic organisms and environmental variability in Antarctica: responses to seasonal, decadal and long-term change
Marine organisms in Antarctica live in an environment which exhibits variability in physical processes over a wide range of temporal scales, from seconds to millennia. This time scale tends to be correlated with the spatial scale over which a given process operates, though this relationship is influenced by biology. The way organisms respond to variability in the physical environment depends on the time-scale of that variability in relation to life-span. Short-term variations are perceived largely as noise and probably have little direct impact on ecology. Of much greater importance to organisms in Antarctica are seasonal and decadal variations. Although seasonality has long been recognised as a key feature of polar environments, the realization that decadal scale variability is important is relatively recent. Long-term change has always been a feature of polar environments and may be a key factor in the evolution of the communities we see today.