18 May 2022
18 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Reviews and syntheses: A framework to observe, understand, and project ecosystem response to environmental change in the East Antarctic Southern Ocean

Julian Gutt1, Stefanie Arndt1, David Keith Alan Barnes2, Horst Bornemann1, Thomas Brey1,3, Olaf Eisen1,4, Hauke Flores1, Huw Griffiths2, Christian Haas1, Stefan Hain1, Tore Hattermann5, Christoph Held1, Mario Hoppema1, Enrique Isla6, Markus Janout1, Céline Le Bohec7,8, Heike Link9, Felix Christopher Mark1, Sebastien Moreau5, Scarlett Trimborn1, Ilse van Opzeeland1,3, Hans-Otto Pörtner1, Fokje Schaafsma10, Katharina Teschke1,3, Sandra Tippenhauer1, Anton Van de Putte11,12, Mia Wege13, Daniel Zitterbart14,15, and Dieter Piepenburg1,3,16 Julian Gutt et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, CB3 OET, UK
  • 3Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity, Ammerländer Heerstraße 231, 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
  • 4Geosciences, University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 5Norwegian Polar Institute, Hjalmar Johansens gate 14, 9007, Tromsø, Norway
  • 6Institute of Marine Sciences-CSIC, Barcelona, 08003, Spain
  • 7Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC UMR 7178, F-67000, Strasbourg, France
  • 8Centre Scientifique de Monaco, Département de Biologie Polaire, MC 98000, Monaco City, Monaco
  • 9Department Maritime Systems, University of Rostock, 18059 Kiel, Germany
  • 10Wageningen Marine Research, Ankerpark 27, 17871 AG Den Helder, The Netherlands
  • 11Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
  • 12Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 13Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Pretoria, 0002, South Africa
  • 14Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, 02543, USA
  • 15Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, 91054, Erlangen, Germany
  • 16Institute for Ecosystem Research, University of Kiel, 24118 Kiel, Germany

Abstract. Systematic long-term studies on ecosystem dynamics are largely lacking for the East Antarctic Southern Ocean, although it is well recognized that such investigations are indispensable to identify the ecological impacts and risks of environmental change. Therefore, here we develop a framework for establishing a long-term cross-disciplinary study and argue why the eastern Weddell Sea and the easterly adjacent sea off Dronning Maud Land (WSoDML) is a well suited area for such an initiative. As in the Eastern Antarctic in general, climate and environmental change have so far been comparatively muted in this area. A systematic long-term study of its environmental and ecological state can thus provide a baseline of the current situation, an assessment of future changes, and sound data can act as a model to develop and calibrate projections. Establishing a long-term observation (LTO) and long-term ecological research (LTER) programme now would allow the study of climate-driven ecosystem changes and interactions with impacts arising from other anthropogenic activities, from their very onset. Through regular autonomous and ship-based LTO activities, changes in ocean dynamics, geochemistry, biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services can be systematically explored and mapped. This observational work should be accompanied by targeted LTER efforts, including experimental and modelling studies. This approach will provide a level of long-term data availability and ecosystem understanding that are imperative to determine, understand, and project the consequences of climate change and support a sound science-informed management of future conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean.

Julian Gutt et al.

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Julian Gutt et al.

Julian Gutt et al.


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Short summary
Long-term ecological observations are key to assess, understand and predict impacts of environmental change on biotas. We present a multidisciplinary framework for such largely lacking investigations in the East Antarctic Southern Ocean, combined with case studies, experimental and modelling work. As climate change is still minor here but is projected to start soon, the timely implementation of this framework provides the unique opportunity to document its ecological impacts from the very onset.