The Heat Is Online

Antarctic Marine Species Threatened by Warming

Antarctic Marine Life Vulnerable to Climate Change

CAMBRIDGE, UK, September 10, 2002 (ENS) - Global warming is changing the life patterns of marine species in Antarctica as fast, if not faster than anyplace on Earth, say scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Thousands of Antarctic marine species, adapted to constant temperatures for millions of years, now appear to be uniquely vulnerable in the face of predicted temperature change, new research reveals.

The Antarctic marine environment has the most constant temperature on Earth, with some sites seeing temperature variations of only 0.1 degree Celsius throughout the year, says BAS scientist Dr. Lloyd Peck.

These marine temperature conditions have existed around Antarctica for 10 to 15 million years. As a result, the cold blooded animals living on the Antarctic seabed have developed only limited ability to cope with temperature change.

In a recent paper in the journal Science, Dr. Peck described his work on Antarctica's Signy Island, where temperatures vary more than most places in the Southern Ocean, although by only 1.5 degrees Celsius annually.

Many cold blooded species in Antarctica grow to giant size, because of the high levels of oxygen present in cold water environments. Dr. Peck describes sea spiders over 30 centimeters across, and isopods, the relatives of woodlice, over 13 centimeters long.