Sea change: new blueprint for Southern Ocean
More than 200 scientists, including several from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), from 19 countries have released the first comprehensive assessment of trends in Southern Ocean ecosystems, in a report written specifically for policy makers.
The Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO) stresses that climate change is the most significant driver of species and ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean and coastal Antarctica.
“Long-term maintenance of Southern Ocean ecosystems, particularly polar-adapted Antarctic species and coastal systems, can only be achieved by urgent global action to curb climate change and ocean acidification,” the report says.
Co-convenor Dr Andrew Constable of the University of Tasmania says:
“MEASO is like an IPCC report for the Southern Ocean, and in a similar way we have distilled the science into an easy-to-read and concise summary to inform politicians and policy makers around the world.”
The report’s launch coincides with this year’s international meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart. CCAMLR is the international body under the Antarctic Treaty System responsible for the conservation of marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean, with membership of 26 nations and the European Union.
The team behind the report says that the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica is absorbing most of the global temperature rise.
MEASO co-convenor, Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas, says:
“The unique wildlife of the Southern Ocean is feeling the heat and, together with additional pressures from fisheries, tourism, and pollution, faces an uncertain future.”
As well as being critical for biodiversity, this ocean is also crucial to our own welfare by providing us with food and helping us to control our climate.
Dr Huw Griffiths, from British Antarctic Survey, who was one of the authors on the assessment says:
“This assessment is important because for the first time, hundreds of scientists from all around the world have worked together to combine our knowledge to understand the changes that are happening to the ecosystems in the Southern Ocean and what their future might be.
However, scientific knowledge only makes a difference if we make it available to the people who have the power and influence to change things and in words and images that they understand.”
The MEASO Summary for Policymakers is available to download here.