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Antarctic fjords are climate-sensitive hotspots of diversity in a rapidly warming region
Date:12/4/2013

ost likely from phytoplankton blooms, macroalgal debris, or even from krilltheir molted carapaces or the dead bodies that sink to the bottom," Grange said. Researchers have even suggested that large aggregations of humpback whales may stimulate fjord primary productivity by releasing nutrients as they feed and defecate in the fjords during seasonal immigration.

Even with a variety of pathways to fuel the remarkable diversity of animals on the seafloor, Antarctic fjord ecosystems are at risk from climate warming.

In today's Antarctica, fjord glaciers currently sustain very little melting and the icebergs they shed drift out to sea without dropping much sediment scientists say these fjords have "weak meltwater influence." As a result, fjord headwaters are clear of suspended sediments, allowing phytoplankton and benthic algae to bloom, and producing little burial disturbance of rich seafloor fauna.

These favorable conditions are very likely to change as the climate warms rapidly, accelerating glacial melting and dumping large amounts of fine glacial sediments into fjord headwaters.

The resulting higher turbidity and seafloor sedimentation will likely shade the phytoplankton and bury diverse seafloor communities, or smother primary production and biodiversity in these narrow canyon-like ecosystems.

"The extraordinary ecosystems, which provide habitat and foraging areas for krill and baleen whales and are hotspots of seafloor diversity, are very likely to be negatively impacted by the very rapid climate warming occurring along the Antarctic Peninsula," Smith said. "The fjords also happen to be the focus of Antarctic ecotourism, with thousands of visitors on cruise ships each year entering the fjords to view penguins and whales and to experience the sheer abundance and diversity of Antarctic life. Climate warming may thus dramatically change some of the most iconic of Antarctic ecosystems."

"These Antarctic fjo
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Contact: Talia S Ogliore
togliore@hawaii.edu
808-956-4531
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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Antarctic fjords are climate-sensitive hotspots of diversity in a rapidly warming region
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