Ro­bot gives rare glimpse un­der Antarc­tic sea ice

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

An un­der­wa­ter ro­bot has cap­tured a rare glimpse be­neath the Antarc­tic sea ice, re­veal­ing a col­or­ful world filled with co­conut-shaped sponges, dan­de­lion-like worms, pink al­gae and spi­dery starfish.

The Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion (AAD) took footage on a cam­era at­tached to a Re­motely Op­er­ated Ve­hi­cle sent down by sci­en­tists through a small hole drilled in the ice as they recorded the acid­ity, oxy­gen, salin­ity and tem­per­a­ture of the sea­wa­ter.

"When you think of the Antarc­tic coastal marine en­vi­ron­ment, the iconic species such as pen­guins, seals and whales usu­ally steal the show," AAD bi­ol­o­gist Glenn John­stone said yes­ter­day. "This footage re­veals a habi­tat that is pro­duc­tive, col­or­ful, dy­namic and full of a wide va­ri­ety of bio­di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing sponges, sea spi­ders, urchins, sea cu­cum­bers and sea stars."

These species, recorded near Aus­tralia's Casey re­search sta­tion, live in water that is -1.5 de­grees Cel­sius (29.3 de­grees Fahren­heit) year round and cov­ered in 1.5 me­ters (nearly five feet) of sea ice for 10 months of the year.

"Oc­ca­sion­ally an ice­berg may move around and wipe out an un­lucky com­mu­nity, but mostly the sea ice pro­vides pro­tec­tion from the storms that rage above, mak­ing it a rel­a­tively sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment in which bio­di­ver­sity can flour­ish," he said.

Sci­en­tists are in Antarc­tica work­ing on bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the im­pact of acid­i­fi­ca­tion on South­ern Ocean sea-floor com­mu­ni­ties un­der in­creas­ing car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. Project leader Johnny Stark said a quar­ter of the car­bon diox­ide emit­ted into the at­mos­phere was ab­sorbed by the ocean, which in­creases its acid­ity. "Car­bon diox­ide is more sol­u­ble in cold water and po­lar wa­ters are acid­i­fy­ing at twice the rate of trop­i­cal or tem­per­ate re­gions," he said. "So we ex­pect these ecosys­tems to be among the first im­pacted from ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion." — AFP


SYDNEY: This un­dated screen grab taken from handout video re­ceived from the Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion (AAD) on De­cem­ber 21, 2016 shows a rare glimpse be­neath the Antarc­tic sea ice. —

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