Unit Affiliation: Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)
The Palmer Antarctica LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) site has been in operation since 1990. The goal of all the LTER sites is to conduct policy-relevant research on ecological questions that require tens of years of data, and cover large geographical areas. For the Palmer Antarctica LTER, the questions are centered around how the marine ecosystem west of the Antarctica peninsula is responding to a climate that is changing as rapidly as any place on the Earth. For example, satellite observations over the past 35 years indicate the average duration of sea ice cover is now ~90 days (3 months!) shorter than it was. The extended period of open water has implications for many aspects of ecosystem research, with the concurrent decrease of Adèlie penguins within this region regularly cited as an exemplar of climate change impacts in Antarctica. Cutting edge technologies such as autonomous underwater (and possibly airborne) vehicles, seafloor moorings, and numerical modeling, coupled with annual oceanographic cruises, and weekly environmental sampling, enables the Palmer Antarctica LTER to expand and bridge the time and space scales needed to assess climatic impacts. This award includes for the first time study of the roles of whales as major predators in the seasonal sea ice zone ecosystem. The team will also focus on submarine canyons, special regions of enhanced biological activity, along the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP).