Climate change impacts Antarctic biodiversity habitat

From the University of Queensland

IMAGE: Climate change impacts Antarctic biodiversity habitat. view more

Credit: Peter Ryan

Ice-free areas of Antarctica – home to more than 99 per cent of the continent’s terrestrial plants and animals – could expand by more than 17,000km2 by the end of this century, a study published today in Nature reveals.

Led by University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences PhD student Jasmine Lee, the study is the first to investigate how ice-free areas in Antarctica may be affected by climate change.

Ms Lee said Antarctic ice-free areas cover less than one per cent of the continent, ranging from the size of a football pitch to the size of a small Pacific Island.

“Ice-free areas make for small patches of suitable habitat for plants and animals – like islands in a sea of ice,” she said.

“These areas are home to the majority of Antarctic species – from seals and seabirds to mosses, lichens and small invertebrates, such as tardigrades and springtails.

“Many of these species occur nowhere else in the world.”

To determine how much ice would melt around ice-free areas over the next 80 years as the climate warms, Ms Lee worked alongside colleagues from UQ, CSIRO, the Australian Antarctic Division and the British Antarctic Survey.

She found the melting ice could create up to 17,000km2 of new ice-free area across Antarctica – a 25 per cent increase on current levels.

Ms Lee said the majority of this melting would occur on the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate had already rapidly warmed.

“This expansion of ice-free habitat could lead to new opportunities for Antarctic biodiversity, although the warmer conditions will also encourage invasive species to establish,” Ms Lee said.

“Many native species have evolved isolated from each other for extended time periods; they are mainly constrained by the availability of resources, such as water and nutrients.

“How they will cope with increasing connectivity and competition from invasive species is largely unknown.”

Co-author and UQ researcher Dr Justine Shaw said, while Antarctic was one of the planet’s last wildernesses, research showed – like elsewhere – it has been altered by climate change.

“Our work shows habitats that already support invasive species will become larger, meaning there will be more patches of land that can support invasive weeds and invertebrates,” Dr Shaw said.

UQ Associate Professor Richard Fuller said the research provided a better understanding of climate change impacts on Antarctic biodiversity and plan conservation actions.

“We can use the models of expanding ice-free areas to help identify sites for protected areas, or pinpoint where we need to increase biosecurity,” Dr Fuller said.

“Humans are one of the primary vectors of invasive species to the continent.”

###

The study was co-authored by scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division, British Antarctic Survey, CSIRO, UQ’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, and University of Tasmania’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Media Contact

Jasmine Lee
jasmine.lee1@uqconnect.edu.au
61-437-724-428
@uq_news

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98 thoughts on “Climate change impacts Antarctic biodiversity habitat

  1. Ice hbitat shirinking, to be replaced with an ice-free habitat? Words fail to describe the horror.

    • The Chicago area people, I think, are pretty happy about becoming ice-free. It’s hard to barbecue or commute to work under a mile of ice.

    • Must agree. It really sounds like Iced uninhabitable areas are becoming ice free and therefore capable of supporting increased life. YEA LIFE…Find those new niches

      • But… You’re spoiling the ominous tone of the article (Antarcticle?)!
        How can young Ms Lee get more funding to reiterate the obvious to the public in the future, if you spoil the macabre mood of predictions which are based on an erroneous climate sensitivity to CO2?

      • The article seems to take the position that any plant or animal that doesn’t grow on ice, qualifies as an “invasive” species.

  2. could expand……yeah….and I could win the lottery

    What is all this crap science….woulda coulda shoulda..this garbage is what passes for climate science
    ..and they don’t realize…by using these wiggle words…they are all saying they don’t know crap about it

    • Exactly.
      This is no ” finding”, it is a speculstion based on a narrow and biased supposition that she can see the future.

      • worse….she auditioning for a PhD in biology….and no one has taught her that climate change is the primary driver of evolution
        Just once I’d like to see one of these nubnuts say…..How exciting!…let’s see what develops

        Seems the same people that believe the climate should be static…also believe evolution should be too

      • It is really fortunate that the Wooley Mammoth IS extinct otherwise it would be the Climate poster child although if they were still around, the Polar Bears would probaby be left alone and thrive

      • The weather bureau around here has been wrong EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. Anyone with a functioning brain can see that “predictions” more than 72 hours in the future have about as much credibility as a Ouija board. These “scientific” journals now must be confined to those educated beyond their intelligence!

      • Latitude wrote: “Just once I’d like to see one of these nubnuts say…..How exciting!…let’s see what develops
        Seems the same people that believe the climate should be static…also believe evolution should be too.”

        So true!

        Remember that one of the founding premises of modern environmentalism is that the biosphere of the Earth existed in perfect balance and harmony before humanity screwed it up. This is just like the Judeo-Christian version of the Garden of Eden. The difference is that now, most Jews and Christians believe that the beginning of Genesis is more allegory than literal, while the Church of Environmentalism still takes the idea of Eden very literally, as well as the inherent sinfulness of humanity.

        While environmentalists will pretend to speak scientifically, their faith is plan to see when you read between the lines. Environmental change is the evil produced by mans sinfulness. If man stops sinning, the environment will return to perfect balance and there will be no more change. In the meantime, these high priests of Gaia will do their best to prevent change, believing they are doing the will of their god.

        It is a very twisted religion, because the only constant in nature is and always has been change. By thwarting change, these priests are killing the god they worship.

    • Yep. The hallmark of alarmist garbage is the “could” word. It is quite safe to stop reading at that point.

      Interestingly when Tim Flannery was challenged on his alarmist predictions he used the “C” word as his excuse for his failures. He claimed that all he said was that Perth could become the world’s first ghost metropolis. That was a possibility therefore he was right all along.

      It is impossible to counter such thinking using logic. That is why as many people as possible need to point out that an unfalsifiable prediction is no prediction at all.

  3. ““Humans are one of the primary vectors of invasive species to the continent.” ??? Then I guess that means SHE is invading “the continent” every time SHE and her buddies travel there ! D’OH !
    I am am still trying to figure out her use (definition) of “vector” ??

      • And then those “rats, cats, dogs, and germs” FREEZE to death…It is kinda cold there, don’t cha know ?

    • She is certainly affecting the little Penguin’s mating plans just by being there.
      Gus..”Come on Rocky, get a move on, we don’t want to be late, won’t find a mate”
      Rocky..”Stop pushing Gus, don’t you see that Alien up there? Haven’t you heard of the abductions?”
      Gus…”Well then how will we ever reproduce if we don’t find girlfriends?”
      Rocky..”Perhaps that alien will leave and not strap one of those strange beeping alien tech packs on our backs.”

    • Correct Butch, but that level of self-awareness is beyond any alarmist. Self-awareness seems to be like moral development as described by Kohlberg. Just as a small child cannot reason about the morality of breaking rules, an alarmist cannot reason about the problems they themselves cause.

    • Right Butch. Nobody goes there but scientists, and those are mostly climate ‘scientists.’

      There are some physicists and astronomers at the south pole, but that’s not a place where invasive species would survive.

  4. That’s an area(square) just 125Km per side. On the Antarctic continent that’s a really small pimple.

  5. The person in the picture is not dressed in a manner that would protect her in most of Antarctica, most of the time. The picture shows her on the coast. Things get cold once you get inland. link

  6. Ms Lee said the majority of this melting would occur on the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate had already rapidly warmed.

    Isn’t that somewhat misleading? Has it mostly warmed just because of ENSO? What’s the ten-year trend?

  7. Would, could, may,possibly, this century.
    What a flog.
    I suppose the mug taxpayer is picking up the tab?

  8. I heard about this “research” on the BBC World Service (aka The Voice of CAGW), the presenters kept saying how interesting it was, but the scientist questioned couldn’t provide any red meat to justify that claim. It looks like someone ran a climate model for them, which of course leads to melting, which of course leads to more ice-free area, then there is just speculation about what that implies, with the bogey-man of “invasive species” deployed when nothing much is going to happen to existing species, other than them having more space in which to thrive.

  9. What is the date associated with that picture? Our (N. America) summers are the Antarctic’s winter time.
    A bit misleading to showing melting ice during our hot summer.]. Just seems off.

  10. Once, animals and plants was thriving on Antartica, while it still was connected to Australia. After the break, most life on Antartica was wiped out. Due to the agenda in the ‘study’, which is less worth than the paper it is written on, they have to igore that fact. An intact ‘icy island’ is apperently better than one full of life …

  11. If the ice melts enough, the Emperor Penguins might be able to go back to nesting on the beach where they nest now, only there is so much ice at the moment that they have to walk miles to get to the sea.
    And I would have thought that birds are pretty good at spreading new plant and parasite species – you should see what comes up each spring in my garden gravel after the Magpies and Blackbirds have spent the winter defecating on it, not to mention the fleas and leeches that travel by air.

    • Essentially all birds in Antarctica are seabirds, mostly pelagic too, so the don’t spread plants much

  12. Yes, the manly arts and crafts of CAGW science are being taken over quite rapidly by young women, a social phenomenon worthy of study. The old testosteronial guard is retiring, suffering from climate blues and otherwise falling largely silent as the end of it all draws nigh.

    The hysteria and rapid fire of confident clamber of disaster in the offing these days seems to be a déjà vue or refreshing of the stuff pumped by the testosterarians of yore. I believe the old guard is in the background, however, tenured and enervated.

    I recounted a conversation about two years ago on WUWT that I had with a young woman geology grad while at a mining conference in Toronto. She was thinking about the environmental option. I told her that there were good jobs related to impact studies, but the industry was in a slow phase and I recommended exploration in selected sectors- gold, lithium.. She was considering climate change studies and I advised this field was overstuffed and the issue seemed to be losing momentum recently. I later emailed her about a possible job but she never replied. Her zeal, seems to be shared by her sisters. Such a waste.

    • Are the penguins just curious are are they assessing the edibility of this potential prey?

      • Probably not. Those are Gentoo penguin chicks. They only breed in the northern Peninsula. So she apparently didn’t venture outside “tourist country” in the “summer”.
        Gentoos are utterly unafraid of humans, they aren’t even curious like some other penguins, they simply ignore humans completely. They will (grudgingly) detour around your boots, but only just.

      • Looking at the rock formation I might even hazard a guess about the site. It is probably Port Lockroy, Antarctica’s only tourist trap. There is a nice gentoo colony there.

  13. 1. And they are soooooo blinded by their own good intentions. No-one else can go there because they might be ‘a vector’ but its OK for them to stand around posing for photo opportunities. That picture speaks volumes.

    2. They are actually scared sh1tless by the place. It is unknown, it might ‘do’ something that will impinge on their lives, or heaven forbid, their selfie taking opportunities.
    There is the nub of this (and climate change, ozone, mad cows, global cooling, ebola etc etc) – it takes a strong will, a clear head and oodles of self-confidence to co-exist with things that are ‘unknown’
    Unknown to modern western (wo)man means scary and frightening. An everyday characteristic and so common no-one really sees or recognises it anymore. Depression.

    This ‘being scared of the unknown’ is what’s (mis) taken for curiosity much of the time.
    Such as, why did we visit The Moon?
    The very first thing we did when we got there was jam a 6 foot shagging stick into it.
    Take that Moon. You’re conquered now and hence Not Scary anymore. Then we pick up a few momento rocks, just like your average tourist on a package holiday and come home declaring it to be ‘science’.
    What a fooking joke. Total bollox.

    I do not want to decry the brave astronauts and bright engineers that went there but, lets face it, there is a very thin line between bravery/heroism and sheer recklessness. So we got Teflon and computers.
    I think civilisation would mange without Teflon, and computers………..

    And didn’t you just love the decontamination procedures when our the intrepid ones returned. Just in case ‘something’ came back from the Moon and contaminated our precious little Earth.
    But what about the Moon? Where were the equivalent decontaminations to ensure we took nothing bad to the Moon? Nowhere.
    OK. We are The Chosen Ones. We have the Good Intentions.Because ‘we’ are special.
    What makes us special is sheer stupidity a lot of the time and this woman in Arctica is one of those times.
    And for a woman to be so dumb, with all the sensitivity, caring and intuitive abilities they normally have, is really rather worrisome.

    • I personally think we are a very advanced society…
      …strapping explosives to our A$$…igniting them….and going to the moon

      • True. I wouldn’t trade space exploration for all the welfare checks and carbon credits in the world.

  14. At some level, every species is invasive. 99%+ of all species that have ever lived are extinct. Some of them were wiped out by the species that exist today. Was that such a terrible thing?

    • Since humans are invasive, maybe we should quit going to Antarctica.

      Not.

      The Antarctic ice sheets have waxed and waned for 34 million years. Climate change is nothing new there.

      • Besides which, the penguin lineage was already extinct for at least 34 million years before that, predating the K/T extinction some 66 Ma. Cretaceous penguins presumably could still fly. The oldest actual fossil is from 62 Ma, and was already flightless.

    • So many people think that evolution is a thing of the past. Ie, species may have gone extinct in the past, but it mustn’t be allowed again.

  15. the study is the first to investigate how ice-free areas in Antarctica may be affected by climate change.

    No PhD candidate myself, but let me venture:
    If the climate cools, The ice-free areas shrink. Whatever lives there declines
    If the climate warms, The ice-free areas grow. Whatever lives there increases.
    Call me DOCTOR!!

    • Dr. RobRoy! Did you discover this without a grant, or a trip to Antarctica for a photo op with penguins! How is that possible? You must be…what’s the word…well, like these guys!

    • “If the climate cools, The ice-free areas shrink. Whatever lives there declines
      If the climate warms, The ice-free areas grow. Whatever lives there increases.”

      Not necessarily. Antarctica (as always, except the Peninsula) is extremely dry. It is usually the amount of precipitation that determines the amount of ice, not the temperature. During the Pliocene Warm Period there was more ice in the Transantarctic mountains than there is today.

  16. “the study is the first to investigate how ice-free areas in Antarctica may be affected by climate change.”

    Let’s see – No actual measurements over time of increasing ice-free area, no observations of any invading species, no observations of affects of invading species. This statement should be:

    “the author is the first to SPECULATE how ice-free areas of Antarctica may be affected by ASSUMED climate change”

    • This is abother one of those papers that KISASS* to get more funding.

      *Keep It Simple And Sufficiently Scary.

      • Perhaps in this case Keep It Short, Simple And Sufficiently Scary might be more succinct.

  17. What blows or floats in from SA will mostly determine which invasives (or more correctly “evolutionary opportunists”) will be found there on the AP in the future. The higher CO2 will allow plants that couldn’t survive before to get a toe-hold
    Keeping habitats static is an unnatural pathos. Just don’t let the academics import asian bush honeysuckle or pull similar biological stunts.

  18. In 2003, a leopard seal drowned BAS snorkeling scientist Kirsty Brown. I don’t know if it ate her as well.

    They’re the only seal of which I know to eat other seals. Leopard seals are one of the four genera in Tribe Lobodontini. Their dentition is adapted for straining smaller prey. The crabeater seal is supposed to be the most abundant seal in the world. It, the Ross and leopard seals live on pack ice, while the Weddell seal prefers shore-fast ice, making it the most southerly mammal in the world.

  19. Recent history shows that the biggest changes in such remote locations often come from the visiting humans themselves. But they will still get field trips to do what they shouldn’t.

    Every time I sea a large seabird fitted with an irremovable broadcasting antenna strapped around it’s neck, I realize just how stupid some of them are. (I’m not referring to the stupid seabirds here. Maybe such ridiculous ornamentation helps some of the birds get a mate, but I’m pretty sure enviroscientists couldn’t design an aerodynamic F1 sports car, never mind something that won’t actually hinder a bird in either flight or coitus.)

  20. Well, after watching Mad MAX again, I will have to assume that most Aussies are bat shit crazy !!

    • And prone to extreme violence. Historical documentaries such as Mad Max and Gilligan’s Island provide invaluable insights. The documentary Galaxy Quest explored the topic in an interesting way.

    • And even after the senseless slaughter at Gallipoli, ANZACs still remained the Allies’ elite assault shock troops on the Western Front in 1918.

  21. The chance of large increases in ice free areas in Antarctica by the end of the century in about the same as the chance of ice covering the Sahara Desert. This article is not about science. It is about drawing conclusions based on the improbable premise that long-range climate can be successfully forecast. This is science fiction.

    • and by ‘lucky chance ‘ none of those making this claim will be around ‘by the end of the centenary’

  22. “We can use the models of expanding ice-free areas to help identify sites for protected areas, or pinpoint where we need to increase biosecurity,” Dr Fuller said.

    “Humans are one of the primary vectors of invasive species to the continent.”

    No, not just people – scientists. The large majority of visitation and work, was due to, or somewhat connected to the population of scientists.

    • There is some eco-tourism, but it only affects the northern Peninsula and the McMurdo area. In the rest of Antarctica researchers are the only possible vectors for invasive species. Not even birds as in the rest of the world as all birds occurring inland are pelagic outside the breeding season.

      And ecotourist firms are pretty strict about biosecurity I’m less certain about researchers, do they always decontaminate their boots before going ashore for example?

  23. could , such a very useful word for it allows for grand claims to be made , often on little evidenced , but also offer the parachute of being able to claim you did not say it ‘would ‘ when those claims come to nothing . No wonder it is the favorite word for climate ‘science’ even more so as some people have whole careers based on this very ‘useful ‘ little word.

  24. I think Mount Erebus, Deception Island and the Terror rift between, might have something to say about all this sometime. None of these scientist seem to think about what happens beneath our feet.

  25. Abstract

    Accelerating climate change driven population growth of grantiverous hominids on the Western Antarctic peninsula

    Chugg, Scoff, Trough and Suck

    Early expeditions to western Antarctica established the presence of a population of bipedal grantivores on the continent. This population correlated closely with the size of the research vessel’s roster, confirming climate change as the cause. The expedition subsequently stimulated a bout in of intense grantotrophic activity which resulted in a repetition of the same research cruise four years later. Spontaneous copycat grantivory in other populations of grantotrophes resulted in two research cruises arriving coincidently on the peninsula, prompting agressively competitive displays and vocalisations and some instances of appendage-endangering copulation. It was noted that the population of grantotrophic hominids was now more than twice what it had been at the previous research crews, and that the number of research vessels parked at the peninsula had in likewise manner doubled. The outcome of this second research cruise following departure from Antarctica was an even more intense outbreak of predatory grantiverous behaviour which spread to many globally distributed populations of grantotrophes. Two years later the number of research vessels which arrived simultaneously at the western Antarctic peninsula (this time bringing supplies of fur-lined preservatives) had risen to five. These observations lead to the firm conclusion that hyperbolic population growth and reproduction of grantitrophic hominids on the western Antarctic peninsula is driven by climate change.

  26. “Humans are one of the primary vectors of invasive species to the continent.”

    and they buried the led … currently ice free area 1% … future modeled ice free area 1.25 % …

  27. To be fair this study has to be based on models because observations disagree strongly. When people are guessing that global warming could eventually affect Antarctica when it has had no influence on 99% of the continent so far. At least with a model can hide how they come to this conclusion by not showing what factors were actually modelled. Papers involving models need all variables, equations and factors put in them to show what was involved and how they got their results and conclusions. Until this happens science is dead for a longer period still.

    There is no warming over Antarctica because solar and oceans cycles have caused it and these don’t have any influence on Antarctica because of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current blocking the source off. (ACC)

  28. The new science of cause and assumed effect thus brings us a new saying:
    A model a day, keeps the ice away!

  29. Junk science, take present condition and extrapolate to decades ahead.

    I stubbed my toe yesterday, I will extrapolate daily toe stubbing to 2100.
    Policy outcome, everyone inside of the house must wear steel toe boots!

  30. It rained yesterday. I wonder what scientifically accurate mysteries extrapolating rain every day to 2100 will reveal

  31. This whole story is overblown to say the least.

    “Ms Lee said the majority of this melting would occur on the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate had already rapidly warmed.”

    Which it hasn’t recently. The climate is currently cooling in the Peninsula.

    “Many native species have evolved isolated from each other for extended time periods”

    Questionable. Most ice free areas in the Antarctic were ice-covered during the last glaciation. All species there are in a way invasive. There is a single endemic moss species and a fair number of endemic small invertebrates (mites, springtails etc) and microorganisms (microalgae, cyanobacteria) which are apparently the last remnants of the old Gondwanan fauna and flora that existed before the continent became completely glaciated 15 million years ago

    “there will be more patches of land that can support invasive weeds and invertebrates”

    Only one invasive “weed” has ever been reported from Antarctica, Poa annua annual bluegrass. Conditions are much too tough for virtually all vascular plants, even in the Peninsula, not to mention the rest of the continent. There are a number of (moderately) invasive weeds on South Georgia though.

    Biodiversity in Antarctica can only go one way, and that is up.

    • The peninsular has warmed over the past 50 years but cooled over the last 15 years.

    • I pointed this out to Tamsin Edwards, BAS, when she was making a point of the 50 year warming trend, and of course the response “oh yeah I forgot about that”, which is complete nonsense, you don’t forget 15 years of a 50 year time frame, unless that 15 year chunk is inconvenient.

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