More than 200 scientists from 19 countries have released the first comprehensive assessment of trends in Southern Ocean ecosystems, in a report aimed at informing policy makers.
The Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO) is the first circumpolar interdisciplinary assessment of status and trends in Southern Ocean ecosystems and drivers of change, for use by policymakers, scientists and the wider public.
The report, published by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR), highlights that climate change is the most significant driver of species and ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean and coastal Antarctica.
“Long-term maintenance of Southern Ocean ecosystems, particularly polar-adapted Antarctic species and coastal systems, can only be achieved by urgent global action to curb climate change and ocean acidification”, the report says.
The report continues: “Directly measuring the state of Southern Ocean ecosystems is central to ecosystem assessments; new approaches, and greater and more sustained investment than at present is required for covering the complexity of food webs, diverse communities, and the large extent and remoteness of the region.”
“Systematic and sustained long-term measurements of habitats and biota are needed to underpin assessments of ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean, and for projecting future changes”.
Co-convenor Dr Andrew Constable of the University of Tasmania said that the report’s launch had been timed to coincide with this year’s international meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, taking place this week.
MEASO co-convenor Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said that the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is bearing the brunt of climate change, absorbing most of the global temperature rise.
“The unique wildlife of the Southern Ocean is feeling the heat and, together with additional pressures from fisheries, tourism, and pollution, faces an uncertain future.”
“As well as its fundamental importance to biodiversity, the Southern Ocean is crucial to human welfare by providing us with food and helping to control our climate”, Dr Melbourne-Thomas said.
MEASO is the first circumpolar interdisciplinary assessment of status and trends in Southern Ocean ecosystems and drivers of change, for use by policymakers, scientists and the wider public.
Beginning in 2018, MEASO is an open and participatory process involving 203 scientists from across the Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific community (19 countries, 51% identifying as female, 30% early career), contributing to 24 research articles published in a special research topic in Frontiers journals.
MEASO is a core activity of Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Southern Ocean (ICED), which is a regional program of IMBeR (a joint programme of SCOR and Future Earth), and co-sponsored by SCAR. MEASO is also supported by the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), a joint program of SCAR and SCOR.
The Summary for Policymakers is published by SCAR, SCOR and IMBeR.