Climate change causes rising temperatures in the Arctic to affect marine life. A new study was published in the Current Biology magazine, showing a better understanding of the biological implications triggered global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts terrible temperature increase in the future in this area.
To develop the study, the team of scientists delivered and installed heated panels on the seabed near Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. They noticed that if the sea temperature will rise by 1 degree Celsius as predicted by the IPCC, the growth of the seabed is likely to double. Before 2100, the seabed of Antarctic will be swarming with an increased number of marine creatures.
Unfortunately, the results indicate a much greater number of new sea creatures than specialists expected as biological responses to high temperatures. Nevertheless, if temperatures increase by two more degrees Celsius, then the results appear to be unclear. Some of the species may speed up their developmental process while others may reach a certain limit.
Generally, sea creatures on the seabed of Antarctica live in stable but cold temperatures. Annual temperatures vary between -2 degrees Celsius and +1 degree Celsius. This area has been this cold for thousands of years. Therefore, marine life has highly adapted to these extreme temperatures. A crucial thing at the moment is to understand how future climate change effects may affect the polar biodiversity.
The rising temperatures in the Artic will disturb many ecosystems
This may be the key to find out how species may either benefit from or be affected by these small changes in sea temperatures. Dr. Gail Ashton is the lead author of the project. He indicates that this is a simple experiment. They needed to put their test plates in the sea water to conduct a sub-surface experiment. All they did was to change the water temperature.
He mentions that they did not alter light levels, the surrounding ecosystem or food supplies. The impact of the temperature change appears to be dramatic.
Researchers used the panels to track the growth and settlement of sea organisms. They used high-resolution photography to spot the changes in the frigid Antarctic water. When analyzing the photographs, specialists had clear visual evidence of the changes brought up by high temperatures. The experiment unveiled that with a sea temperature rise of only 1 degree Celsius, the Antarctic marine life showed a tremendous level of growth.
The sea creatures that settled on the panel vary from spiral tube worms to colonial bryozoans. These animals are commonly growing on sea floors at a global level. Specialists indicate that this increase in the number of sea creatures may suggest a positive ecosystem response. Therefore, nutrients would be available for species further up in the food chain.
Invertebrates like bryozoa will survive
Furthermore, higher skeletal growth will surely increase carbon capture to the seabed. However, it is important to underline the fact that species richness remained the same. The number of species did not grow during the experiment, only the number of individuals from the marine species. Researchers also indicate that evenness and diversity of the community decreased.
Experts also figured out that the overall dominance of the sea creature community in the Arctic was held by a single species, namely bryozoan. Therefore, this indicates that if future water temperature rises occur, this species will thrive. During the development of the study, the number of individuals of this species almost doubled in warmer conditions.
On the other hand, another study which was recently published in the Nature Climate Change magazine indicates some concerning results. Researchers who participated in this study noticed that many of the native marine creatures would not survive if a future ocean warming will occur. They argue that there will be more losers than winners when talking about the invertebrates populating the seas around Antarctica.
Even if some species from some areas may thrive, approximately 79% of the native species in the region will disappear. Huw Griffiths is the lead author of this study, a scientist from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in Britain. He indicates that a few species may survive during the first decade of the warming period. Nevertheless, on the long run, the whole range of invertebrates including starfish and corals will die.
Hundreds of marine species will be affected
He indicates that they will have no chance to migrate because they literally have no place to go since they live on the bottom of the most southerly ocean. Researchers decided to examine the potential distribution of more than 900 shelf-dwelling invertebrate species. They used computer models to develop a warming scenario.
Apparently, an average ocean warming of 0.4 degree Celsius may occur by 2099. This event will determine a change in the distribution of the unique local species. More and more invertebrate species would lose a suitable habitat. Several of them may only adapt to survive in freezing waters. The study indicated that some areas of the West Antarctic Peninsula are likely to experience a higher increase in temperatures. The water may become too warm for most of the species here.
Therefore, researchers developed the study led by Gail Ashton at a smaller scale and proved that only a few species would thrive. We also need to keep in mind that researchers taking part in the study developed the experiment in a single area. It may be that other regions in the Arctic waters can experience slightly different weather conditions. This can bring modifications for the results of the study.
The second study led by Huw Griffins brought up a broader picture of the changes that may occur if the ocean warms up, analyzing more than 900 species. Researchers develop the study on a larger scale, being able to predict what will happen to the rest of the species apart from bryozoa. This species appears to be likely to adapt.
These two studies indicate that the rising temperatures in the Arctic determined by climate change will certainly destroy many ecosystems. Hundreds of invertebrate species are likely to disappear. Unfortunately, scientists predicted that only a single invertebrate species could thrive and enrich its number of individuals.
Image Source: Nature