State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco)



Surface to deep water biology of the Sabrina Seafloor, East Antarctica

1 Coscinodiscus Armbrecht lowresResearchers aboard the Australian research vessel Investigator, operated by the Marine National Facility, departed Hobart for the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica on 14 January to explore the continental slope of this little known region. The voyage is a multidisciplinary programme comprised of geologists, geochemists, geophysicists and biologists with 22 scientists aboard from universities and research institutes in Australia, Italy, USA and Spain.

1 Sabrina seafloor NSF lowresMicrobiologists on board, Linda Armbrecht and Amaranta Focardi from Macquarie University, Sydney, are investigating phytoplankton, bacteria and virus populations from surface water samples and plankton tows, they are culturing organisms to conduct single-cell genomics on each species, and analysing ancient DNA from phytoplankton in sediment cores as a new way of determining which species thrived or didn’t thrive during past climate shifts. Alix Post, from Geoscience Australia, is using a deep-tow camera to characterise the seafloor environments and community composition at depths <2000 m. Multibeam bathymetry is being used to target communities in a range of seafloor environments, particularly within and adjacent to slope canyons, to understand how these changes in morphology may influence benthic community composition. Understanding the surface and seafloor communities, and their resilience to past changes, will help us to better manage and protect these organisms into the future.

For further information and to follow the survey go to the Sabrina Seafloor Survey website.




Job oportunity: PhD position (4 years) or Post‐doc position (2 years) in molecular ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)Department of BiologyMarine Biology LabBelgium.

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The VUB is searching for a highly motivated PhD student that will work on evolution, population genetics and connectivity in Antarctic sea stars utilising a genomics approach (DNA barcoding, microsatellites and next generation sequencing) in the framework of the interdisciplinary project

Refugia and Ecosystem Tolerance in the Southern Ocean.

Because of its long history and geographic isolation, the Southern Ocean (SO) provides a natural laboratory for research on evolution and biodiversity. Confronted with fast-paced environmental changes, biota in Antarctic ecosystems are strongly challenged and face three possible outcomes: adaptation, migration or extinction. Past glaciation periods have already forced marine zoobenthos of the SO into refugia, being either ice-free continental shelf areas, the deep sea or sub- or peri- Antarctic regions, followed by recolonization when the ice retreated. In a multidisciplinary approach and involving all major Belgian research groups studying evolution and diversity of SO faunas, RECTO will strive at understanding how such past events have driven diversification and adaptation in different animal groups and how these can be applied as proxies to understand the contemporary situation and predict future scenarios.

The Marine Biology Lab at the VUB specialises in research on molecular ecology of marine fauna from the poles to the tropics and from invertebrates to fishes. 

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SO-AntEco expedition to depart in february 2016


SO-AntEco expedition to depart in february 2016

SO AntEco anemone BAS 10001109SO-AntEco is a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) led expedition undertaken in conjunction with an international team of scientists from the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) AntEco research programme. The team includes participants from 9 different countries and 16 institutes. The expedition will take place on board the BAS research ship the RRS James Clark Ross in early 2016 and is the sister project of the Krill Hotspots project.

The SO-AntEco expedition will investigate the diversity of life both inside and outside of the SOISS MPA region in order to better understand the distribution and composition of the seafloor communities around islands. We will undertake a research cruise that will explore the different seafloor habitats to investigate if different environments support different communities of animals. Understanding where animals that are vulnerable to fishing and other human impacts (such as corals and sponges) live will help us to manage the region’s natural resources in the future.

more information


SCAR-Cross Program Workshop

ANTOS 2015 workshop 

AntEco minigrant report 

IASES 2015 report

SCAR-Cross Program Workshop

2015 sep crossAnteco members participated in a Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) cross program workshop in Barcelona, Spain from 16-18 September which brought together biologists from the programs AntEco and Ant-ERA with physicists from the programs AntClim21and PAIS to discuss multidisciplinary approaches for addressing the big challenges in Antarctic science.



 ANTOS 2015 workshop

From: Vonda Cummings (on behalf of the ANTOS workshop organisers)

2015 ANTOSA new SCAR action group, Antarctic Near-Shore and Terrestrial Observing System (ANTOS), was established in August 2014. Its major goal is to identify long term change and understand how this impacts nearshore and terrestrial ecosystems in and around the Antarctic region. The aim is to establish an integrated, coordinated transcontinental and trans-regional surveillance system to track environmental variability and change at biologically relevant scales. The first major activity in the implementation of ANTOS was a two day international workshop, held in Hamilton, New Zealand, in August 2015. It was attended by 25 researchers from 10 countries, six of whom attended ‘virtually’ through internet summary sessions that were held each evening. We discussed the configuration of the ANTOS system, locations, ‘nodes’, technology and data management, and established a data-base advisory committee with representatives from various disciplines. Next steps include identifying suitable locations, a process that will involve surveying the Antarctic community (e.g, via AntEco and AnT-ERA) and national programmes. Further recommendations and details of the workshop discussions are currently being summarised in a report, which will be made available on the ANTOS web page. AntEco, along with the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI), provided funding to support this workshop. We gratefully acknowledge their contributions, and that of the SCAR LSG for helping progress ANTOS.


AntEco minigrant report

Dolores Deregibus was awarded a AntECO minigrant to participate in a mini course on “Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and climate change” and Particpating in the Second Latin American Antarctic symposium.symposium of Latin-American Conference of Marine Sciences.

1) “Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and climate change” mini-course

Anteceo mg DDeregibus pic2 The course was organized at the INVEMAR by Dr. Paula Sierra and we mainly learned and discussed how  MPA can contribute to making coastal marine ecosystems more resilient to the impacts of climate change. In addition, Dr. Dan Laffoley with strong expertise in MPA at IUCN, gave a talk  on “Marine protected areas and climate change, from problems to blue solutions”. It was highly innovative and stimulating covering topics about MPA new designs and planning, and indicators and technologies to monitor coastal MPA. The idea that coastal ecosystems are a positive contribution in mitigating global warming by the sequestration of carbon by vegetated habitats “Blue carbon” was emphasized. We also shared with other participants their experiences of knowledge, plan and management of MPA in their own countries (e.g., Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, etc).


-Latin American Antarctic Symposium- (Santa Marta, Colombia)-

Anteceo mg DDeregibus pic4Two oral presentations: (1) “Could climate change enhance macroalgal primary productivity in Antarctica?/ Podría el cambio climático incrementar la productividad primaria de las macroalgas antárticas?” (Deregibus D, Quartino ML, Campana GL, Momo RF and Zacher K), and (2) Expansion of the macroalgal community in a marine antarctic ecosystem/Expansión de la comunidad de macroalgas en un ecosistema marino Antártico (Quartino ML, Campana GL, Deregibus D, Matula C, Zacher K, Wulff A, Momo FR). There I communicated our last study and ideas. In Potter Cove, King George Island, newly ice-free areas appeared due to glacial retreat opening new space for benthic colonization. Simultaneously, in these areas ice melting produces a reduction of light penetration due to an increase of sediment input. With this study, we aimed to investigate Anteceo mg DDeregibus pic5changes of the macroalgal daily metabolic carbon balance (CB) in a newly ice free area with a high glacial influence (Isla D). Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700 nm) was measured in spring and summer at 0, 5 and 10 m depth since 2011. In addition, we quantified the sea ice duration per year also since 2011. Two seaweeds the Antarctic endemic Himantothallus grandifolius (Phaeophyceae) and Palmaria decipiens (Rhodophyta) were sampled at 5 and 10m depth. CB was calculated using photosynthetic parameters and the underwater PAR data. PAR was significantly lower in summer compared to spring due to the presence of sediment; and DMCB was significantly lower and negative in summer compared to spring. Anteceo mg DDeregibus pic6However, changes in the sea ice duration season could increase the light availability in winter and spring and compensate the negative CB values in summer. Thus, continuous light measurements are being performed to estimate the light climate over a complete year and between years. In this climate change scenario, changes in macroalgal primary productivity are expected in Potter Cove.


IASES 2015

2015 ISEAS 1Author: Dr. Claudio González-Wevar
Between July 13 and 17th, Goa, India became the center of interest for Antarctic Research. This exotic and magical city was selected as organizer of the XII International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Science (ISAES 2015). This SCAR-initiative aimed at showcasing Antarctic Geoscience research. The Opening Ceremony (july the 12th) was held at the Goa Marriot Resort and Spa and hosted by the Indian Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Science (Dr. Harsh Vardhan) and members of the organizer committee including the Earth Science Organization (ESSO), the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

More than 350 delegates from more than 30 countries attended to the Conference. The conference was subdivided into 26 sessions that were held in parallel during five days. Among them, Session 21 titled “Key drivers of Antarctic biodiversity through the Cenozoic: the influence of climate, oceanography and tectonics” was coordinated by three convenors, two of them: Dr. Pete Convey and Dr. Claudio González-Wevar are members of the Steering Group Members of AntEco. This session explored the relationship between Southern Ocean and Antarctic environments and biodiversity through the Cenozoic, linking biotic patterns from the past to the present with changing climate and the geological evolution of the continent. Paleontological studies through the Cenozoic, alongside recent genetic studies of modern taxa, have the potential to reveal important insights into past climate, tectonic evolution, and ocean and wind-mediated dispersal routes across the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent. They are also key to understanding the origin, distribution, abundance and diversity of the modern Antarctic faun and flora. The session included 2 plenary talks given by Dr. Alistair Crame (BAS) and Dr. Pete Convey (BAS) and 4 oral presentations, as well as 4 poster presentations.

Gordon Research Conference: Polar Marine Science

2015 mar gordonJan Strugnell presented a talk titled ‘Evolutionary Patterns and Processes in Antarctica (and the Arctic)’ at the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Polar Marine Science held in Tuscany, Italy from 15-20 March, 2015. The theme of the conference was ‘Polar Shelves and Shelf Break Exchange in Times of Rapid Climate Warming’. The conference included 172 delegates from 23 countries and covered a broad range of topics on polar marine sciences including Physical Oceanography, Carbon Cycling, Toxicity and Ocean Acidification.


XXXIII SCAR Open Science Conference

The AntEco Steering Group is currently preparing for what is turning out to be a very busy Open Science Conference in Auckland. The AntEco sessions covering our main Research Sectors will be held over several days during the OSC with a diverse range of presentations.

Three workshops will also be held under the auspices of AntEco around the OSC. While some of the details are still being finalised, these workshops will progress some of the priority research objectives and bring together researchers from all over the world.

AntEco Workshop 1:

Physical drivers of biodiversity at multiple spatial scales

Convened by Aleks Terauds and Huw Griffiths

Date: Saturday 23rd August (all day)

Attendance: By invitation

AntEco Workshop 2:

Antarctic Aerobiology

Convened by David Pearce

Date: August 28th (18:15)

Attendance: Contact David Pearce

AntEco Workshop 3 (mini-workshop):

Eradication in Antarctica: Management and ecological considerations to inform conservation decision-making

Convened by Justine Shaw and Yi Han

Date: August 23rd (time TBC)

Attendance: By invitation>

The AntEco Steering Group will also hold its Annual General Meeting on Monday 25th August at 18:15.


AntEco is providing support for a mini-workshop to be held in England later in 2014:

Moss-Dominated Ecosystems in Antarctica and surrounding regions: Past, Present and Future

Organisers: Matt Amesbury, Dan Charman, Tom Roland (University of Exeter); Zicheng Yu (Lehigh University)

Date: 29th September – 2nd October 2014

Attendance: By invitation


Research Highlights 2013-14

Notable science highlight in the last 12 months included the AntEco convened Antarctic Symposium at the joint Ecological Society of Australia and New Zealand Conference in Auckland (August 2013), where research on Antarctic ecology was presented to a broad cross-section of the ecological community.

The implementation plan was also presented at the VII Congreso Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Antárticas (Chile, September 2013) and AntEco research priorities were highlighted at the 6th Malaysian International Seminar on Antarctica (October 2013).

AntEco also supported cooperative efforts to manage large scale data sets, and in co-operation with the Expert Group on Biodiversity Informatics, has helped to progress the Microbial Antarctic Resource System (mARS) initiative as well as the Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean.

Other science highlights include several research articles in international, peer reviewed journals, including a major review of the spatial Structure of Antarctic biodiversity (Convey et al 2014); the unprecedented documentation of the regeneration of 1500 year old moss (Roads et al. 2014); a landmark study documenting divergence between Antarctic and South American marine organisms (Poulin et al. 2014); the identification of Ross Sea molluscs (Ghiglione et al. 2014); new insights into the management of invasive species on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island (Terauds et al. 2014); studies that have generated a better understanding of the diversity and adaptability of Antarctic microbial communities (Makhalanyane et al 2013; Gokul 2013); an editorial on threats to, and protection of, Antarctic microbiota (Hughes et al 2013); a significant review of patterns, processes and vulnerability of Southern Ocean benthos (Kaiser et al 2013); and a continental-scale study into the effects of geothermal areas on Antarctic biodiversity (Fraser et al 2014).

For full details on the above publications take a look at the Publications section.