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Antarctic expedition provides new insights into the role of the Southern Ocean for global climate
Date:2/5/2008

lfred Wegener Institute, 53 Scientists from nine countries have been studying the biological carbon pump in the Southern Ocean, among other topics. Algal plankton absorbs carbon through photosynthetic activity, hence removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Researchers have discovered that melting sea ice has created a pool of fresh water on the sea surface. Algal plankton growing in this pool started to decay and to sink to the seafloor. There, metabolic processes occurred.

The scientists investigated an algal carpet drifting in the water near the edge of the sea ice. This algal bloom measured 700,000 square kilometres, i.e. approximately twice the size of Germany. The researchers wanted to find out which physical conditions lead to such algal blooms, and how they affect the living and non-living environment. Their measurements demonstrate a significant decrease in the carbon dioxide content of the surface water. In addition, the new data show the effect of the plankton bloom on the species community at the seafloor. For the first time ever the complete water column of the Southern Ocean from the surface to the seafloor was sampled simultaneously and comprehensively. The current inventory of the flora and fauna will also provide the basis for comparison with future investigations.

During the expedition, Polarstern also offered crucial support through her icebreaking capacity so that the construction materials for the new German Antarctic station Neumayer III could be unloaded despite severe ice conditions.

International workshop

On February 5, an international workshop on climate research in the Southern Ocean will take place aboard Polarstern in Cape Town. The scientists aboard the French and German research vessels Marion Dufresne and Polarstern will meet South African partners to exchange results and plan future collaboration. Most German Antarctic expeditions leave from Cape Town, and it is intended to strengthen
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Contact: Susanne Diederich
Susanne.Diederich@awi.de
49-471-483-11376
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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