TECH

Rare Video Of The Antarctic Seafloor Reveals Stunning Landscape

It's not what you'd expect!

21/12/2016 17:13

When you think of the seafloor in Antarctica you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s probably a barren wasteland, covered by vast swathes of ice in freezing cold temperatures.

While those last two points are accurate, an Australian Antarctic Division underwater research robot has captured a rare glimpse into the astonishing diversity that actually exists in this remotest of landscapes.

Rather than being a lifeless all-consuming mass of grey it seems Antarctica’s seafloor is brimming not only with life, but some dazzling colours too.

Australian Antarctic Division Biologist, Dr Glenn Johnstone said: “When you think of the Antarctic coastal marine environment, the iconic species such as penguins, seals and whales usually steal the show,” 

AusAntarctic

“This footage reveals a habitat that is productive, colourful, dynamic and full of a wide variety of biodiversity, including sponges, sea spiders, urchins, sea cucumbers and sea stars.

From small oddly-shaped sponges to dandelion-like worms Australian Antarctic Division scientists are hoping to learn even more about this vibrant but fragile ecosystem.

One of the reasons scientists have turned their attentions to the seafloor of Antarctica is climate change.

Dominic Hall

Project leader, Dr Johnny Stark explains that a quarter of all the carbon dioxide emitted is then subsequently absorbed by the ocean. This can have a devastating effect on ecosystems.

“Carbon dioxide is more soluble in cold water. Polar waters are acidifying at twice the rate of tropical or temperate regions, so we expect these ecosystems to be among the first impacted from ocean acidification,” Dr Stark said.

“Antarctica may be one of the first places we see detrimental effects of ocean acidification on these organisms.”

This Is What Climate Change Has Done In 2016

  • The Ocean
    Ho New / Reuters
    2016 ocean temperatures were above normal across the board. Caused by a combination of El Niño and global warming resulted in catastrophic coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef. Coral mortality was as high as 50 per cent in some parts of the reef.
  • The Arctic
    NASA NASA / Reuters
    Arctic sea ice levels were well below normal this year. The seasonal minimum in September was 4.14 million square kilometres, the equal-second (with 2007) lowest extent on record after 2012. The winter maximum in March was the lowest on record.
  • Heatwaves
    Amit Dave / Reuters
    There were a number of major heatwaves during 2016. The year started with an extreme heatwave in southern Africa. Many stations set all-time records, including 42.7°C at Pretoria and 38.9°C at Johannesburg on 7 January.
  • Wildfires
    Handout . / Reuters
    The most damaging wildfire in Canadian history occurred in May in the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta. The fire ultimately burned an area of about 590,000 hectares and was Canada’s most costly natural disaster. It led to the total evacuation of the city and ultimately destroyed 2,400 buildings.
  • Air Pollution
    Manish Swarup/AP
    Annual average global carbon dioxide concentrations in 2015 reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. Initial observations indicate new records in 2016. At Cape Grim (Australia), CO2 levels in August averaged 401.42 ppm, compared with 398.13 ppm in August 2015.
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