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Global connectivity of Southern Ocean ecosystems


Murphy, EJ and Johnston, NM and Hofmann, EE and Phillips, RA and Jackson, JA and Constable, AJ and Henley, SF and Melbourne-Thomas, J and Trebilco, R and Cavanagh, RD and Tarling, GA and Saunders, RA and Barnes, DKA and Costa, DP and Corney, SP and Fraser, CI and Hofer, J and Hughes, KA and Sands, CJ and Thorpe, SE and Trathan, PN and Xavier, JC, Global connectivity of Southern Ocean ecosystems, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 9 Article 624451. ISSN 2296-701X (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2021 Murphy, Johnston, Hofmann, Phillips, Jackson, Constable, Henley, Melbourne-Thomas, Trebilco, Cavanagh, Tarling, Saunders, Barnes, Costa, Corney, Fraser, Höfer, Hughes, Sands, Thorpe, Trathan and Xavier. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (

DOI: doi:10.3389/fevo.2021.624451


Southern Ocean ecosystems are globally important. Processes in the Antarctic atmosphere, cryosphere, and the Southern Ocean directly influence global atmospheric and oceanic systems. Southern Ocean biogeochemistry has also been shown to have global importance. In contrast, ocean ecological processes are often seen as largely separate from the rest of the global system. In this paper, we consider the degree of ecological connectivity at different trophic levels, linking Southern Ocean ecosystems with the global ocean, and their importance not only for the regional ecosystem but also the wider Earth system. We also consider the human system connections, including the role of Southern Ocean ecosystems in supporting society, culture, and economy in many nations, influencing public and political views and hence policy. Rather than Southern Ocean ecosystems being defined by barriers at particular oceanic fronts, ecological changes are gradual due to cross-front exchanges involving oceanographic processes and organism movement. Millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of cetaceans move north out of polar waters in the austral autumn interacting in food webs across the Southern Hemisphere, and a few species cross the equator. A number of species migrate into the east and west ocean-basin boundary current and continental shelf regions of the major southern continents. Human travel in and out of the Southern Ocean region includes fisheries, tourism, and scientific vessels in all ocean sectors. These operations arise from many nations, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, and are important in local communities as well as national economic, scientific, and political activities. As a result of the extensive connectivity, future changes in Southern Ocean ecosystems will have consequences throughout the Earth system, affecting ecosystem services with socio-economic impacts throughout the world. The high level of connectivity also means that changes and policy decisions in marine ecosystems outside the Southern Ocean have consequences for ecosystems south of the Antarctic Polar Front. Knowledge of Southern Ocean ecosystems and their global connectivity is critical for interpreting current change, projecting future change impacts, and identifying integrated strategies for conserving and managing both the Southern Ocean and the broader Earth system.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Southern Ocean, ecological connections, food webs, socio-economic, climate change, fisheries, global connectivity, scale
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Antarctic and Southern Ocean ice dynamics
UTAS Author:Constable, AJ (Dr Andrew Constable)
UTAS Author:Corney, SP (Dr Stuart Corney)
ID Code:146078
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:13
Deposited By:Oceans and Cryosphere
Deposited On:2021-08-19
Last Modified:2022-08-29
Downloads:19 View Download Statistics

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