Saturday, June 25, 2011

Study finds creatures not adapting to environmental changes in Antarctic

European Commission Cordis News: Organisms found in the Antarctic region are not quick to adapt to changes in the environment, new international research shows. The study, carried out by 200 scientists from 15 countries, is the culmination of a 7-month expedition on board the Polarstern vessel of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research in the German-based Helmholtz Association.

The Polarstern research vessels returned to the Bremerhaven port in late May 2011. During their journey, the researchers measured the temperature of the Weddell Sea, discovering that while the warming of the deep water continues, the organisms found undersea are not adapting quickly to these changes.

Polar researchers from Germany favour in particular the Weddell Sea as locations for their studies. Oceanographers, for example, use sophisticated sensors, along with a network of moorings and floats, to measure temperature, sea ice thickness and salt concentration. They use floats and satellites to transmit their information. Extending their network of measurement was one of the objectives of this latest expedition, led by Dr Eberhard Fahrbach from AWI's Climate Sciences / Observational Oceanography Division.

'An initial evaluation of the measurement data shows that the temperature down to great depths of the Weddell Sea continues to rise,' explains Dr Fahrbach, who was in Antarctica on the Polarstern from November 2010 to February 2011.

…Concerning temperature and salt concentration distribution, the global conditions in the deep area of the Weddell Sea are influenced in such a way that cold, saline water sinks (thermohaline circulation). So changes in the properties of these cold water masses in the Antarctic will have global impacts, the researchers say….

The crew of the Polarstern drilling cores on an ice floe. Photo by Frank Rödel, found on the website of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

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