Terrestrial and marine ecosystems

Part 3

Terrestrial and marine ecosystems

Emperor penguins near Halley station
Emperor penguins near Halley station
© British Antarctic Survey, Dean Evans

Antarctica is fascinating from an ecological point of view: despite the harshest environmental conditions on the surface of the planet, well adapted organisms are able to survive here. By studying their adaptations and the ecosystems that can be sustained, much can be learnt about the Earth's biosphere in general.

The seas surrounding Antarctica are far richer with life than the continent itself; but as with life on the continent, organisms in the Southern Ocean also display remarkable adaptations, especially to the perennially cold waters and extreme seasonal variations of sea ice cover and sunlight.

This section begins with a general discussion of the biogeography and ecological characteristics of Antarctica in order to set the scene for the more detailed treatments of terrestrial and marine ecosystems that follow. The section concludes by examining the nature of the threats facing south polar ecosystems, both from climate change and from direct human exploitation of marine resources. We also take a look at Antarctica's remarkable subglacial lakes and at the challenges to be faced, and potential insights that could be gained, in exploring them. The resources contained here support A-level studies of biogeography, ecosystems, biodiversity, and concepts surrounding ecosystem vulnerability to climate change and sustainable management.

 

>> 3:1 Biogeography of Antarctica