The Heat Is Online

Fractured Ice Shelf Endangers Antarctic Wildlife

Iceberg Clogs Antarctic Food Chain, April 26, 2002

April 26 — A Connecticut-sized iceberg is clogging part of the Ross Sea in Antarctica, threatening not only human endeavors there, but disrupting native wildlife.

An iceberg known as B-15 calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000, but it's now blocking the exit for fast ice that normally is blown out to sea by offshore winds in the spring.

That means there is less near-shore open water — ice-free bands of water called polynya — for the sun to penetrate and stimulate blooms of microscopic plant life, called phytoplankton. That drop in life at the base of the food chain is leading to less food for fish, seals, whales and penguins, say researchers.

No one has ever looked before to see the biological impacts