A new biogeographic atlas was released yesterday, providing a comprehensive audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean.
The atlas, published this week by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), is a new milestone in Antarctic Biodiversity and Biogeography, contributed to by 147 world renowned experts including PML scientist Dr Jeroen Ingels.
Responding to a need for increased biogeographic information on the Southern Ocean waters to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, the atlas details an area which is warming faster than almost any other place on Earth. Such evidence is fundamental for monitoring biodiversity, discovering biodiversity hotspots and detecting the impacts of environmental changes.
Dr Ingels, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at PML, is first author on the chapter ‘Antarctic Free-Living Marine Nematodes’, giving an overview of nematode species distributions in the Southern Ocean. In the past, studies of Southern Ocean nematode diversity have suffered due to taxonomic difficulties and a general lack of species data, making information about this area scarce. This chapter has sourced and verified what information was available to shed further light on these fascinating organisms.
More than 9000 species are recorded in the atlas, ranging from microbes to whales. The data and expert opinions will help inform conservation policy, including the debate over whether or not to establish marine protected areas in the open ocean. Sophisticated environmental models coupled with existing species distribution data provide a valuable outlook on the possible future distribution of key species as they adapt to climate change.