News Archive

K123: Environmental Domains Classification for the Ross Sea Region

K123: Environmental Domains Classification for the Ross Sea Region

Fraser Morgan
Landcare Research Ltd

The research develops an environmental classification for terrestrial ecosystems of Ross Sea region. The classification includes associated data and models and is underpinned by new knowledge on soil distribution, climate and microbial diversity and/or abundance. Its delivery, via a one-stop web portal will produce a classification that is dynamic, widely accessible, and functional. We provide new data on these ecosystems by:

  • Developing a terrestrial environmental classification for the Ross Sea region using environmental domains analysis that encompasses climate, landform, soil, and biology layers;
  • Mapping soil attributes using soil-landscape models, validated with field data to establish the spatial distribution of soils in the McMurdo Dry Valleys;
  • Extending our existing soil climate network to include upland slopes for monitoring the impact of climate change on soil active layer and permafrost depth;
  • Characterising soil microbial communities.

K081: Antarctic Aquatic Ecosystems

K081: Antarctic Aquatic Ecosystems


Ian Hawes
University of Canterbury

This programme's goal is to determine how climate-driven hydrological change controls the biological structure and biodiversity values of Antarctica's inland aquatic ecosystems by quantifying and modelling the climate-hydrology-biodiversity linkages. We will apply new molecular, biological process and environmental modeling techniques in the field and in laboratory experiments to identify key biodiversity and ecosystem components and values.

Our programme takes a multi-disciplinary approach to assess the sensitivity of inland aquatic habitats to incremental (eg climatic) and discontinuous (eg invasive species) change. This research will inform environmental management of Antarctic systems of how things are likely to change, which environments are likely to be most sensitive to change, and which areas need to be prioritised for protection.

We will identify and categorise the range of aquatic ecosystems within the Ross Sea sector and elucidate the mechanisms by which they are connected, their resilience to environmental change and their vulnerability to invasive organisms. In 2013-14 we focus on two types of water body; (a) glacially-associated, ice-based meltwaters that are some of the most ubiquitous and diverse aquatic habitats in Antarctica, for which there is little comprehensive biological information; and (b) rock-based pond ecosystems close to and remote from Scott Base that are important biodiversity elements in continental Antarctic landscapes.

 Metadata links

Biological and chemical characteristics in water samples from ponds and Lake Wilson in the Darwin Glacier area
The changes in the physical, chemical and biological processes in melt water ponds during the late season freeze processes into the polar winter at Bratina Island
The change in metabolism, and chemical and physical dynamics, after a transition from light to dark conditions, of melt water ponds on the McMurdo Ice Shelf
The rates of benthic photosynthesis of microbial mats at low irradiances in Lake Hoare and Lake Fryxell, Taylor Valley
The factors controlling planktonic primary and secondary production in 22 meltwater ponds varying in chemical conditions, and in layers of stratified ponds

Characterisation of aquatic resources in McMurdo Sound region of Antarctica: water chemistry,  biological identity and genomic samples

K043: Antarctic Sea Ice, Algal Productivity and Global Climate Change

K043: Antarctic Sea Ice, Algal Productivity and Global Climate Change


Ken Ryan
Victoria University of Wellington

The sea ice is host to a diverse community of algae, bacteria and protists that are likely to be sensitive indicators of changing climatic conditions. These organisms grow between the ice crystals of the sea ice producing a large biomass particularly on the bottom of the ice. They are ultimately the primary food source for all organisms in ice covered areas of the Southern Ocean, much like the grasslands in our farms in NZ.

The research will develop baseline long-term data on their biodiversity, abundances and community structure, using a range of traditional and modern techniques including microscopic identifications, DNA fingerprints, high throughput sequencing etc, over broard spatial and temporal scales.

Together with international collaborators, we will also establish the responses of the sea ice microbial community to climate-induced environmental changes such as ocean acidification using eco-physiological methods we have developed over more than 20 years of Antarctic research.

Metadata and website links

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae in the Cape Hallett region

The bacterial biomass of sea ice from Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett region

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae and bacteria in Terra Nova Bay and the physical parameters of their environment

Algal response to transplantation with a ice core flipping experiment, Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea

The role of grazing on sea ice algae and sea ice bacteria by ciliates and flagellated (zooplankton) in Terra Nova Bay

The response of sea ice and brine water algae and bacteria to changes in salinity, temperature, light and UVB in Terra Nova Bay

The distribution, taxonomy, physiology and feeding habits of pelagic amphipods in Terra Nova Bay

The biomass, productivity, physiology and grazing pressures of phytoplankton during the polar winter in the Ross Sea region

A mathematical model of population dynamics to explain changes in biodiversity of microorganisms in ice covered marine environments

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae and bacteria in Granite Harbour and the physical parameters of their environment

The response of sea ice and brine water algae and bacteria to changes in salinity, temperature, light and UVB in Granite Harbour

The distribution, taxonomy,  physiology and feeding  habits of pelagic amphipods in the Ross Sea

Community composition survey at Terra Nova Bay with similar samples collected at Cape Evans and Cape Armitage

Trace metal analysis of sea ice at Granite Harbour

K020: Predicting Biocomplexity in Dry Valley Ecosystems

K020: Predicting Biocomplexity in Dry Valley Ecosystems


Craig Cary
University of Waikato

This research will deliver a bio geographical characterisation for the entire Ross Sea region, together with a predictive model for the effects of climate change. We will achieve this by greatly extending and upgrading our existing model that links the biodiversity with landscape and environmental features.

We plan to extend its coverage to include biota in all ice-free regions of the Ross Sea region and increase its prediction capability by importing detailed analyses of the physical, chemical and biological drivers responsible for the biodiversity combined with a sensitivity analysis of the model using detailed survey and ecophysiological studies of biodiversity hotspots. This will allow us to test various climate change scenarios and to determine the impacts and risks of changing global climate.

Metadata links

GIS analysis, biological samples (soil microorganism, invertebrate and plant), automatic weather station data and vegetation and invertebrate surveys to determine the terrestrial biocomplexity of the McMurdo Dry Valleys