The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Life on the seabed

The subantarctic islands are biodiversity hotspots, home to species found nowhere else in the world. Due to their remoteness, however, opportunities to study their underwater habitats are rare with a paucity of baseline information with which to detect future change. Further south, Antarctic marine life has evolved in geographic and oceanographic isolation from biota in other continents, due to both plate tectonics and the strong Antarctic Circumpolar Current. In Commonwealth Bay, the arrival of giant iceberg B09B has resulted in year-round sea ice cover, with unknown consequences to the communities living on the sea bed.

The research program

  1. On the AAE 2013-2014 we undertook baseline observations on the subantarctic islands by sampling marine biodiversity within and across multiple islands, providing insights insight into the factors that shape them.
  2. On the AAE 2013-2014 we set out to discover the impact of giant iceberg B09B on benthic communities in Commonwealth Bay.

Research Papers

Effects of sea-ice cover on marine benthic communities: a natural experiment in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica

Clark, G., Marzinelli, E.M., Fogwill, C., Turney, C. and Johnston, E.L.

We surveyed the benthic communities 3 years after continuous sea-ice cover began in Commonwealth Bay and found algal bed communities in severe decline. Monitoring will improve our understanding of ecological responses to sea-ice and vulnerability to climate change.