Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Antarctic Ecosystems

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 1.5
FY95 1.5
FY96 1.0

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue Understanding long-term ecological response to climate change (80%); Modeling biological and physical interactions ( 10%); Understanding human disturbance on the ecosystem (10%)
(c) Research Activity : System Structure and Function: Understanding (80%); Observation (20%)

Organizational Component:
Office of Polar Programs
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Polly A. Penhale
Phone: 703-306-1033

Research Goals:
To conduct ecosystem monitoring and to analyze long-term ecological response to global climate change in a fragile Antarctic Peninsula environment.

Research Description:
The Office of Polar Programs supports global change research in the form of interdisciplinary investigations of terrestrial, limnetic, and marine ecosystems in Antarctica. Antarctic Ecosystems is focused directly on ecosystem monitoring and long-term ecological response to global climate change to answer questions such as how climate variability and change in a fragile polar environment affects the food chain. The Antarctic LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) activities at Palmer Station provide a focal point for ecosystem studies that will include measurement of both physical and biological parameters. LTER's main goal is the effect of the interannual variation of sea ice cover on the structure of the marine ecosystem of the Antarctic Peninsula. Sea ice varies widely from season to season in the Antarctic and its maximum and minimum extent varies considerably from year to year. As many components of the marine food web, ranging from algae to penguins and seals, are dependent on the sea ice, changes in its extent can have on marine life and the structure of the food web. Some of the changes in these extents may be complex periodicities; others may be associated with overall trends in global change. The ongoing studies at the site include environmental monitoring, satellite observations and short term experimental I process studies. A periodicity in annual sea-ice has been observed resulting in penguin population oscillations. The major advantages of this site include a relatively pristine environment, a simple food chain, phytoplankton-krill-fish- mammals/birds), a fragile ecosystem balance in a harsh climate and limited interference by humans, i.e., minimal commercial interests. On the other hand, events such as the grounding of the Bahia Pardso, and subsequent oil spill, can introduce major uncertainties in localized areas. This work has clearly clear relevance to USGCRP if global warming were responsible for a long term reductions in sea-ice.

Program Interfaces:
The Antarctic LTER at Palmer is funded and administered by the Office of Polar Programs, but jointly reviewed by the NSF L113 program, which includes sites located throughout the US, the Antarctic and its territories, The Palmer site is part of the LTER network. NASA participates peripherally in this program through MOU agreements regarding satellite coverage at the sites. The LTER program is not a part of the Long-Term Ecological Monitoring (LTEM) component of the Global Change m the Terrestrial Environment (GCTE) project of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), however it could potential contribute to the kinds of scientific goals of that program as well as GLOBEC and the UV/Ozone program

Program Milestones:
1994: Conduct measurements of sea ice extent, phytoplankton productivity, and oceanic circulation along the Antarctic Peninsula using remote sensing techniques 1995- 1997: Continue monitoring phytoplankton - and population biology of higher trophic level organisms, krill, fish, and seabirds 1998: Complete annual research cruises and research projects that explore complex links among physical, biological, and human systems in the study area.

Policy Payoffs:
Field monitoring and process studies will provide data for the early detection of global change. Changes in sea-ice cover have influence on food webs in the Antarctic, as well as direct feedback effects on climatic This program is important to the Antarctic Treaty and the implementation of the new Protocol on the Environment. It is also a provider of useful data to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which monitors populations and recommends action limitations to commercial fishing, the program will enable more informed stewardship of one of the Earth's major ecosystems.