The Southern Ocean ecosystem under multiple climate change stresses – an integrated circumpolar assessment
A quantitative assessment of observed and projected environmental changes in the Southern Ocean (SO) with a potential impact on the marine ecosystem shows: (1) large proportions of the SO are and will be affected by one or more climate change processes; areas projected to be affected in the future are larger than areas that are already under environmental stress, (2) areas affected by changes in sea-ice in the past and likely in the future are much larger than areas affected by ocean warming. The smallest areas (<1% area of the SO) are affected by glacier retreat and warming in the deeper euphotic layer. In the future, decrease in the sea-ice is expected to be widespread. Changes in iceberg impact resulting from further collapse of ice-shelves can potentially affect large parts of shelf and ephemerally in the off-shore regions. However, aragonite undersaturation (acidification) might become one of the biggest problems for the Antarctic marine ecosystem by affecting almost the entire SO. Direct and indirect impacts of various environmental changes to the three major habitats, sea-ice, pelagic and benthos and their biota are complex. The areas affected by environmental stressors range from 33% of the SO for a single stressor, 11% for two and 2% for three, to <1% for four and five overlapping factors. In the future, areas expected to be affected by 2 and 3 overlapping factors are equally large, including potential iceberg changes, and together cover almost 86% of the SO ecosystem.
Authors: Gutt, Julian, Bertler, Nancy, Bracegirdle, Thomas J., Buschmann, Alexander, Comiso, Josefino, Hosie, Graham, Isla, Enrique, Schloss, Irene R., Smith, Craig R., Tournadre, Jean, Xavier, Jose C.