The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica had, up until now, maintained a stable extent of winter sea ice, in contrast to the Arctic. However, this trend ceased in 2016, signaling a significant change. Recognizing the importance of comprehensively assessing the marine ecosystem in this region, the international scientific community produced an inaugural report in 2018. Comparable to an IPCC document, this report serves as a valuable resource for guiding decisions pertaining to the protection and conservation of the Southern Ocean and its diverse biodiversity.
The wellbeing of Antarctic marine ecosystems heavily relies on the presence of sea ice, making its decline a cause for concern for various wildlife species. Stressing the need for more comprehensive data on marine ecosystems, the report offers a range of options that can bolster resilience in the face of a rapidly changing global climate. This extensive assessment process engaged a multitude of experts and endeavors to present a clear and coherent narrative for policymakers.
The report underlines that habitats in the Southern Ocean are undergoing transformation due to warming temperatures, diminishing sea ice, melting glaciers, and human activities. Consequently, it urges swift action to address the twin challenges of climate change and ocean acidification. Furthermore, international investment is crucial to strengthen scientific assessments and observations related to ocean health.
Presented to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, this report provides an essential tool for policymakers to make informed decisions concerning the conservation and protection of vital ecosystems in the Southern Ocean.A new report has been released to aid various sectors, one of which is the evaluation of changes in habitats, species, and food webs in the Southern Ocean. Currently, no less than ten different international organizations or processes individually conduct this assessment. It is crucial to recognize that the Southern Ocean plays a significant role not only for Antarctica but for the entire planet. This information will also prove invaluable to numerous other organizations, including the IPCC, during this crucial period for climate action decision-making. The assessment team has emphasized the significance of coordinated, collaborative, and consultative approaches in providing ecosystem data for policymaking. Although our first assessment required five years to complete, it merely marks the initial phase of our commitment to supporting evidence-based conservation of Southern Ocean ecosystems in the future.