Start date:
October 2009
End date:
November 2009
New Harbour, Cape Evans
Principle Investigator:
Dr Vonda Cummings
Theme or program:
Southern Ocean Research: Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Phone: +64 04 386 0300
Characterising the structure and function of benthic communities and determining their relationships to key environmental factors is essential to an improved understanding of Antarctic ecology and wise management of the Antarctic coastal zone. This programme will investigate the environmental processes that influence community dynamics and the spatial structure of populations, and hence the potential for climate variability and anthropogenic influences to impact ecosystem structure and function. Natural gradients in environmental conditions and productivity within the latitudinal range of the Ross Sea will be used to address how the structure, diversity, trophic interactions and productivity of communities relate to site-specific physical variables. This research builds on our previous research and will enable us to link disturbance and primary production regimes to patterns of resource utilisation by benthos and the biodiversity of benthic communities over different spatial scales. This research provides fundamental information on the structural and functional biodiversity of Antarctic coastal ecosystems. It also establishes a baseline for distinguishing natural environmental variability, occurring over short ecological time and space scales, from larger scale phenomena, such as changes in ice cover and disturbance regimes associated with climate variability. This work contributes to the Latitudinal Gradient Project and is a NZ International Polar Year project.