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