The composition, spatial structure, diversity and abundance of Antarctic nematode and copepod meiobenthic communities was examined in shallow (5–25 m) marine coastal sediments at Casey Station, East Antarctica. The sampling design incorporated spatial scales ranging from 10 meters to kilometers and included testing for human impacts by comparing polluted (metal and hydrocarbon contaminated sediments adjacent to old waste disposal sites) and control areas. A total of 38 nematode genera and 20 copepod families were recorded with nematodes being dominant, comprising up to 95% of the total abundance. Variation was greatest at the largest scale (km’s) but each location had distinct assemblages. At smaller scales there were different patterns of variation for nematodes and copepods. There were significant differences between communities at control and impacted locations. Community patterns had strong correlations with concentrations of metals introduced by human activity in sediments as well as sediment grain size and total organic content. Given the strong association with environmental patterns, particularly those associated with human impacts, we provide further evidence that meiofauna are very useful indicators of anthropogenic environmental changes in Antarctica.
In the Antarctic Circumpolar Current region of the Southern Ocean, the massive phytoplankton blooms stemming from islands support large trophic chains. Contrary to islands, open ocean seamounts appear to sustain blooms of lesser intensity and, consequently, are expected to play a negligible role in the productivity of this area. Here we revisit this assumption by focusing on a region of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current zone which is massively targeted by marine predators, even if no island fertilizes this area. By combining high resolution bathymetric data, Lagrangian analyses of altimetry-derived velocities and chlorophyll a observations derived from BGC-Argo floats and ocean color images, we reveal that the oligotrophic nature of the study region considered in low chlorophyll a climatological maps hides in reality a much more complex environment. Significant (chlorophyll a in excess of 0.6 mg/m3) phytoplankton blooms spread over thousands of kilometers and have bio-optical signatures similar to the ones stemming from island systems. By adopting a Lagrangian approach, we demonstrate that these moderate blooms (i) originate at specific sites where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current interacts with seamounts, and (ii) coincide with foraging areas of five megafauna species. These findings underline the ecological importance of the open ocean subantarctic waters and advocate for a connected vision of future conservation actions along the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
Global threats to ocean biodiversity have driven international targets calling for a worldwide network of marine protected areas (MPAs). In line with these targets, the Commission on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has been working towards adopting MPAs in the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR is considered a leader in science-based management and has been guiding the way on international MPAs. The west Antarctic Peninsula, threatened by climate change and industrial fishing, has been a priority area for MPA planning in CCAMLR. Since 2011, Chile and Argentina have worked to develop an Antarctic Peninsula MPA proposal which they submitted to CCAMLR in 2018. We use the Antarctic Peninsula MPA proposal process as a case study for understanding the science-policy interface in this international conservation regime. Specifically, we use existing frameworks for co-production of actionable science to examine the Antarctic Peninsula MPA process. We show that the Antarctic Peninsula MPA Proponents engaged in a highly collaborative, transparent, and science-based process which exemplified best practices for actionable science and co-production. Despite following best practices for actionable science, the MPA proposal has not yet been adopted, largely due to political barriers. We elaborate on the importance of co-production of actionable science and its effectiveness as well as to limitations in the Southern Ocean and beyond. Finally, we highlight that science-policy best practices may not be sufficient to drive consensus and the ultimate need for political will in the decision-making underpinning MPA designation in the Southern Ocean.
In the present study, we surveyed the distribution and diversity of fungal assemblages associated with 10 species of marine animals from Antarctica. The collections yielded 83 taxa from 27 distinct genera, which were identified using molecular biology methods. The most abundant taxa were Cladosporium sp. 1, Debaryomyces hansenii, Glaciozyma martinii, Metschnikowia australis, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, Thelebolus cf. globosus, Pseudogymnoascus pannorum, Tolypocladium tundrense, Metschnikowia australis, and different Penicillium species. The diversity, richness, and dominance of fungal assemblages ranged among the host; however, in general, the fungal community, which was composed of endemic and cold-adapted cosmopolitan taxa distributed across the different sites of Antarctic Peninsula, displayed high diversity, richness, and dominance indices. Our results contribute to knowledge about fungal diversity in the marine environment across the Antarctic Peninsula and their phylogenetic relationships with species that occur in other cold, temperate, and tropical regions of the World. Additionally, despite their extreme habitats, marine Antarctic animals shelter cryptic and complex fungal assemblages represented by endemic and cosmopolitan cold-adapted taxa, which may represent interesting models to study different symbiotic associations between fungi and their animal hosts in the extreme conditions of Antarctica.
In the Southern Ocean, the at‐sea distributions of most predators of Antarctic krill are poorly known, primarily because tracking studies have only been undertaken on a restricted set of species, and then only at a limited number of sites. For chinstrap penguins, one of the most abundant krill predators breeding across the Antarctic Peninsula, we show that habitat models developed utilizing the distance from the colony and the bearing to the shelf‐edge, adjusting for the at‐sea density of Pygoscelis penguins from other colonies, can be used to predict, with a high level of confidence, the at‐sea distribution of chinstrap penguins from untracked colonies during the breeding season. Comparison of predicted penguin distributions with outputs from a high‐resolution oceanographic model shows that chinstrap penguins prefer nearshore habitats, over shallow bathymetry, with slow‐flowing waters, but that they sometimes also travel to areas beyond the edge of the continental shelf where the faster‐flowing waters of the Coastal Current or the fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current occur. In the slow‐moving shelf waters, large penguin colonies may lead to krill depletion during incubation and chick‐rearing periods when penguins are acting as central place foragers. The habitats used by chinstrap penguins are also locations preferentially used by the commercial krill fishery, one of the last under‐developed marine capture fisheries anywhere on the planet. As it develops, this fishery has the potential to compete with chinstrap penguins and other natural krill predators. Scaling our habitat models by chinstrap penguin population data demonstrates where overlap with the fishery is likely to be most important. Our results suggest that a better understanding of krill retention and krill depletion in areas used by natural predators and by the krill fishery are needed, and that risk management strategies for the fishery should include assessment of how krill movement can satisfy the demands of both natural predators and the fishery across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Such information will help regional management authorities better understand how plausible ecosystem‐based management frameworks could be developed to ensure sustainable co‐existence of the fishery and competing natural predators.
The pelagic ecosystems of the Western Antarctic Peninsula are dynamic and changing rapidly in the face of sustained warming. There is already evidence that warming may be impacting the food web. Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, is an ice-associated species that is both an important prey item and the target of the only commercial fishery operating in the region. The goal of this study is to develop a dynamic trophic model for the region that includes the impact of the sea-ice regime on krill and krill predators. Such a model may be helpful to fisheries managers as they develop new management strategies in the face of continued sea-ice loss. A mass balanced food-web model (Ecopath) and time dynamic simulations (Ecosim) were created. The Ecopath model includes eight currently monitored species as single species to facilitate its future development into a model that could be used for marine protected area planning in the region. The Ecosim model is calibrated for the years 1996–2012. The successful calibration represents an improvement over existing Ecopath models for the region. Simulations indicate that the role of sea ice is both central and complex. The simulations are only able to recreate observed biomass trends for the monitored species when metrics describing the sea-ice regime are used to force key predator-prey interactions, and to drive the biomasses of Antarctic krill and the fish species Gobionotothen gibberifrons. This model is ready to be used for exploring results from sea-ice scenarios or to be developed into a spatial model that informs discussions regarding the design of marine protected areas in the region.
The potential presence of introduced antibiotics in the aquatic environment is a hot topic of concern, particularly in the Antarctic, a highly vulnerable area protected under the Madrid protocol. The increasing presence of human population, especially during summer, might led to the appearance of pharmaceuticals in wastewater. The previous discovery of Escherichia coli strains resistant to antibiotics in sea water and wastewater collected in King George Island motivated our investigation on antibiotics occurrence in these samples. The application of a multi-residue LCMS/MS method for 20 antibiotics, revealed the presence of 8 compounds in treated wastewater, mainly the quinolones ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin (92% and 54% of the samples analyzed, average concentrations 0.89 μg/L and 0.75 μg/L, respectively) and the macrolides azithromycin and clarithromycin (15% positive samples, and average concentrations near 0.4 μg/L), and erythromycin (38% positive samples, average concentration 0.003 μg/L). Metronidazole and clindamycin were found in one sample, at 0.17 and 0.1 μg/L, respectively; and trimethoprim in two samples, at 0.001 μg/L. Analysis of sea water collected near the outfall of the wastewater discharges also showed the sporadic presence of 3 antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, trimethoprim) at low ng/L level, illustrating the impact of pharmaceuticals consumption and the poor removal of these compounds in conventional WWTPs. The most widespread antibiotic in sea water was ciprofloxacin, which was found in 15 out of 34 sea water samples analyzed, at concentrations ranging from 4 to 218 ng/L. Bacteria resistance was observed for some antibiotics identified in the samples (e.g. trimetropim and nalidixic acid –a first generation quinolone). However, resistance to some groups of antibiotics could not be correlated to their presence in the water samples due to analytical limitations (penicillins, tetraciclines). On the contrary, for some groups of antibiotics detected in samples (macrolides), the antibacterial activity against E. Coli was not investigated because these antibiotics do not include this bacterial species in their spectrum of activity.
Our preliminary data demonstrate that antibiotics occurrence in the Antarctic aquatic environment is an issue that needs to be properly addressed. Periodical monitoring of water samples and the implementation of additional treatments in the WWTPs are recommended as a first step to prevent potential problems related to the presence of antibiotics and other emerging contaminants in the near future in Antarctica.