PROJECT 7: Krill and Ecosystems

The implications of changes in sea ice and other environmental factors (e.g., warming, acidification, nutrient supply) for marine ecosystems will be assessed using several related approaches. Multi-disciplinary voyages will provide simultaneous measurements of environmental and ecological variables to assess coupling of physical and biological processes. The unique krill aquarium at AAD and environmental manipulation facilities at UTAS will be used to quantify the response of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and krill to multiple interacting stressors. Satellite-remote sensing, including new LIDAR and multi-spectral sensors, will be used to scale up results from field programs and laboratory-based studies. The program will assess both, direct impacts of environmental change on phytoplankton, sea-ice algae, zooplankton and krill, and the indirect effects arising from changes in prey abundance and/or quality.

The key science questions for this project are:

  • How will complex environmental change, driven by alteration of cryospheric and oceanic properties, impact the base of the food web from microbes to krill?
  • Who will be the winners and losers in response to climate change and what are the ecological ramifications of such shifts off East Antarctica?
  • What will be the cumulative effect on sea-ice and water-column ecosystems of altered biological performance within the trophic levels of food webs in East Antarctica?
  • What is the relationship between krill distributions and sea ice in East Antarctica, and how will it be altered in light of current/projected climate change?