1999 Projects: Benthic processes
Research on Atmospheric Variability and Ecosystem Response in the Ross Sea, Antarctica (ROAVERRS)
Project lead/manager: James Barry
1999 is the final year of this four-year, NSF-funded project. (MBARI has provided supplemental support for institute researchers to participate.) The primary goals have been to increase scientific understanding of connections between climate variability and processes in the upper waters of the southwestern Ross Sea. As an area of very high and seasonal phytoplankton production, the Ross Sea supports huge numbers of marine animals. Variability in winds and currents govern the distribution and extent of sea-ice cover each year, creating broad stretches of open water, known as polynyas. The sizes of the open-water areas in turn directly affect levels of primary productivity. ROAVERRS is addressing meteorological, oceanographic, and ecological questions. Findings at the Ross Sea will help in predictions of what might happen in polar settings as a result of human-induced climate change.
Over the course of the project MBARI researchers have been participating in investigations of the diversity and abundance of seafloor life, including bacteria, beneath the polynyas. Instruments at four moorings have collected data on currents, salinity, and other water properties, while samples from sediment traps at the moorings provide information on the kinds of organisms in surface waters. Researchers have also used box-coring devices to collect intact samples of seafloor sediment. Measurements of the chlorophyll contents of the samples indicate levels of plankton productivity, and respiration measurements reveal the metabolic rates resident organisms.
The researchers have also employed a camera sled, towed just above the seafloor, to record video images of the larger animals. Analyses of the video images, sediments cores, and mooring data, to be completed at MBARI in 1999, will contribute to a better understanding of the relationships between physical and biological processes in the Ross Sea.
Last updated: 07 October 2004