Study tracks blue whales across Southern Ocean

New data will help shape conservation efforts in the waters around Antarctica

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Australian and New Zealand researchers have tracked blue whales across thousands of miles in the Southern Ocean to help inform conservation efforts. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As a keystone species in marine ecosystems, blue whales have a significant impact in the ocean around Antarctica, but the population dynamics of the species in the region are still a mystery as the marine mammals recover from the decimation of the whaling era.

That may change following the recent six-week Australia-New Zealand Antarctic Ecosystem Voyage voyage, as researchers tracked the world’s largest creatures across thousands of miles of ocean, detecting their songs from as far as 750 kilometers away. Continue reading

Climate: Too cold for penguins?

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Emperor penguin colony near Halley Bay. IMAGE COURTESY DIGITALGLOBE.

Genetic study tracks history of Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — A genetic study shows that emperor penguins may have just barely survived the last ice age, with a few scattered populations  enduring centuries of bitter cold and ice.

The study covers about 30,000 years and suggests that only three populations survived, including a climate refuge of sorts in the Ross Sea, where emperors may have been able to breed around a relatively small area of open water. The emperor penguins in that region evolved to become genetically distinct from other populations, which may support arguments for creating a Ross Sea marine protected area. Continue reading

Scientists probe Antarctic ice sheet for climate clues

New data to help inform projections of sea-level rise


Researchers are exploring Antarctic ice sheets. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Drilling deep into Antarctic ice this month, researchers were able for the first time to take a close look at the grounding zone of an ice sheet, where Antarctic ice, land and sea all converge.

Sediment samples from the half-mile bore hole will provide clues about the mechanics of ice sheets and their potential effects on sea-level rise, but the drilling also revealed an unsuspected population of fish and invertebrates living beneath the ice sheet, the farthest south that fish have ever been found. Continue reading

Report: Ecosystem disruptions expected in Ross Sea

‘Portions of the food web that depend on ice in their life cycles will be negatively impacted, leading to severe ecological disruptions’


How will changes in the Antarctic food chain affect aquatic mammals? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate change will fundamentally change The Ross Sea, one of Antarctica’s productive biological regions, but exactly how those changes will play out is hard to predict, scientists said after running computer models combining sea-ice, ocean, atmosphere and ice-shelf interactions.

The region is likely to experience ‘severe ecological disruptions,” a group of scientists wrote in their new study, explaining that rising temperatures and changing wind patterns will create longer periods of ice-free open water, affecting the life cycles of both predators and prey. Continue reading

Study projects major decline of Antarctic sea ice

Meltdown likely to have serious impacts on marine life


How long will Antarctic sea ice persist? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

*Adapted from a Virginia Institute of Marine Science press release. More Summit Voice stories on sea ice here.

FRISCO — While global warming deniers try to divert attention from the building climate crisis by pointing at record-high Antarctic sea ice extent, a new study suggests much of that ice will soon melt away.

Plugging projected increases in Antarctic air temperatures into finely scaled models, the scientists said the Ross Sea could lose more than half its summer ice by 2050 and more than 75 percent by 2100. Continue reading

Morning photo: Antarctica wildlife

Plans to protect Antarctic marine biodiversity falter


Fur, elephant and Weddell seals are share this beach on Dundee Island.

FRISCO — For all its reputation as an icy wasteland, Antarctica actually teams with life, which makes it all the more disappointing that an international conservation commission once again failed to finalize plans for long-sought marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and off the coast of East Antarctica. The finger is being pointed at Russia, acting as a rogue nation to block those conservation plans, but in reality, it’s up the rest of the world community to encourage Russia to come back to the table in October in good faith at the next scheduled CCAMLR meeting.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures showing what’s at stake. Read more Summit Voice Antarctica stories here. Continue reading

Crucial Antarctica conservation talks start next week

International commission to reconsider proposals for new marine protected areas in the Ross Sea and East Antarctica


An orca surfaces for air near the coast of Antarctica. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For only the second time in its 32-year history, an international Antarctic conservation commission will meet outside its regularly scheduled session, and stakes are huge, as delegates from around the world will decide whether to protect the seas around Antarctica from unsustainable fishing.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in Bremerhaven, Germany starting July 15 specifically to continue discussions on two proposals for the establishment of marine protected areas: One for the Ross Sea region, submitted by New Zealand and the United States, and the second for waters off East Antarctica, submitted by Australia, France and the European Union. The two proposals would establish marine protections across about 1.2 million square miles of the Southern Ocean, totaling an area about the size of India.

The proposed reserve in the pristine Ross sea, would be the size of Alaska, nearly doubling the documented 849,000 square miles of fully protected ocean worldwide. The rules would ban fishing and other extractive activities to protect biodiversity and preserve the area’s value as a reference area against which to measure global warming changes and other impacts. Continue reading


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