Ocean circulation off East Antarctica affects ecosystem structure and sea-ice extent
Nicol, S and Pauly, T and Warner, MJ and Bindoff, NL and Wright, S and Thiele, D and Hosie, GW and Strutton, PG and Woehler, E, Ocean circulation off East Antarctica affects ecosystem structure and sea-ice extent, Nature, 406, (6795) pp. 504-507. ISSN 0028-0836 (2000) [Refereed Article]
Sea ice and oceanic boundaries have a dominant effect in structuring Antarctic marine ecosystems. Satellite imagery and historical data have identified the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current as a site of enhanced biological productivity. Meso-scale surveys off the Antarctic peninsula have related the abundances of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and salps (Salpa thompsoni) to inter-annual variations in sea-ice extent. Here we have examined the ecosystem structure and oceanography spanning 3,500 km of the east Antarctic coastline, linking the scales of local surveys and global observations. Between 80°and 150°E there is a threefold variation in the extent of annual sea-ice cover, enabling us to examine the regional effects of sea ice and ocean circulation on biological productivity. Phytoplankton, primary productivity, Antarctic krill, whales and seabirds were concentrated where winter sea-ice extent is maximal, whereas salps were located where the sea-ice extent is minimal. We found enhanced biological activity south of the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current rather than in association with it. We propose that along this coastline ocean circulation determines both the sea-ice conditions and the level of biological productivity at all trophic levels.