Upcoming Science This Season

Response to environmental changes and post-industrial recovery of foraminifera from South Georgia fjords, sub-Antarctic

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Our primary objective is to document modern benthic communities of foraminifera inhabiting poorly studied fjords of South Georgia (SG) and explore how their local biodiversity has responded to the twin impacts of industrialization and global warming in this sub-Antarctic area.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We expect to document biodiversity and distribution patterns of modern foraminifera in SG’s fjords, including the poorly-known monothalamids and describe new species. We will also reconstruct changes in foraminiferal faunas and paleoenvironments over the last 150 years in selected fjord locations. We will compare records from locations impacted by the whaling industry, i.e. in Stromness and Cumberland bays and those not impacted, i.e. in Antarctic Bay and possibly also in Fortuna Bay. Importantly, it will be also possible to document ecosystem recovery following the 1961 closure of the whaling station in Stromness Bay and its response to the ongoing warming.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

The data we plan to obtain will provide a valuable baseline for recognizing future trends and will help to assess resistance of SG ecosystem to local but severe industrial impact and its capability to reestablishing natural communities. They will also allow to predict future ecosystem changes in the Antarctic Peninsula sector of Antarctica linked to ongoing climate warming.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing?

During our fieldwork, we will sample sea floor sediment with Kajak and Van Veen devices in up to 38 sites primarily in Cumberland West and East, Stromness, and Antarctic bays. Our secondary sites are most of all in Fortuna Bay. Precise date of sampling depends on weather conditions but must take place in late November to early December from SRV Saoirse. During this time, 3 persons will be also using labs of the KEP Research Station for microscope analyses on fresh material and initial sample preparation. Samples/cores (some frozen) will be transported to UK and Poland for further analyses

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):
None

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:
None

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work:
Not yet

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Wojciech Majewski
Email: wmaj(at)twarda.pan.pl

Polar Ocean Ecosystem Time Series - Western Core Box

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

South Georgia has been identified as a key source of regional biodiversity, potentially supporting anomalously high levels of endemic and range-edge species. The biota is generally considered Antarctic in character with organisms typically slow growing, long lived and with deferred sexual maturity. The best possibility to monitor biological response to climate change is probably where many species are highly thermally sensitive and at range edges. The pelagic ecosystem of South Georgia is extremely productive and intense phytoplankton blooms support a rich food web that includes zooplankton, in particular large densities of Antarctic krill, and vertebrate predators (penguins, seals and whales). Our long-term time-series investigates the climatic and anthropogenic forces influencing the South Georgia marine ecosystem.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

The main deliverable of the WCB is a consistent unique time series of mesoscale distribution and abundance of Antarctic krill and an understanding of the physical environment they are within at South Georgia, South Atlantic (1996 – current). These data are required to understand the long term variability in krill biomass at South Georgia and the influences from climate variability, fishing pressure and predation.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) play a central role in the Southern Ocean food web as effective grazers on phytoplankton as well as a key prey item of a wide range of higher trophic predators. Inter-annual fluctuations in krill abundance at South Georgia were first noted during the whaling period in the early part of the twentieth century. There appear to be 2 to 3 years in each decade where the abundance of krill at South Georgia is low, the predator foraging and breeding performance is reduced, and the krill fishery reports reduced catch levels and rates. We undertake this long-term science to investigate the climate and anthropogenic forces that influence these cycles with a view to providing information pertinent to the management of the Antarctic ecosystem and greater understanding of ecosystem variability.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing?

The cruise consists of the following two key projects, and aims to support other projects (PhD, CASS Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme and other international collaborators) where they fit to the general sampling programme.
POETS - WCB survey

1. Acoustic survey during daylight hours using multi-frequency (38, 70, 120 & 200 kHz) Simrad EK60 echosounder. Two transects to be run each day during a four day period.
2. Deployment of the CTD at minimum of two stations per night during survey.
3. Continuous operation of underway data logging system (bathymetry, location, sea surface temperature, sea currents, etc.).
4. Net sampling (RMT8 and other zooplankton/micronekton nets) at night-time stations plus target fishing during both night and day to ground-truth acoustic data.
5. Acoustic calibration using standard sphere techniques will be undertaken in one of the deep-water harbours on the North coast of South Georgia (Stromness Harbour is the preferred location).
6. Recover WCB mooring. Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy mooring.
POETS – SCOOBIES (SCotia sea Open-Ocean BIological laboratoriES)
Mooring recovery, refurbishment and redeployment

1. Recover two deep-water moorings (SW and NW of South Georgia). Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy moorings during cruise.
2. Net sampling (RMT8, MOCNESS and other zooplankton nets) over 24 hour periods at mooring stations

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):
https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/poets-wcb/ and https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/scoobies/

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:
@BAS_science

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work:
None

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Sophie Fielding

Email: sof(at)bas.ac.uk

Tracking of black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses at Bird Island

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Albatrosses are large seabirds that rely on wind to reach distant feeding areas, and are strongly affected by wind patterns. This research will investigate how wind patterns influence the amount of energy that albatrosses have to expend in order to acquire food, how this in turn impacts albatross reproduction, and how changes in wind patterns influence the energetic cost of reaching foraging grounds. This work will take advantage of recent developments in tagging technology to generate estimates of energetic expenditure during each foraging trip.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We expect to increase our understanding of how environmental variability influences the movement, foraging behaviour, and energetic requirements of albatrosses. Specifically, the data we will collect on albatrosses and their environment will allow us to understand how climate-driven variability in wind patterns impacts albatrosses and their ability to obtain sufficient food in order to successfully raise their offspring.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

Climate change is impacting where marine predators must go to find food, and also how much energy these animals use in order to reach their feeding areas. Assessing how foraging in marine animals is influenced by climate patterns is critical to understanding the impacts of future climate change on marine ecosystems. Wind patterns are predicted to be altered under climate change scenarios, and albatrosses are especially reliant on having favourable winds. Consequently, climate-driven changes in wind will likely have strong impacts on the movement and foraging behaviour, and hence on their reproduction and survival.

 

4.What are you actually going to be doing?

During fieldwork at South Georgia, we will be deploying different electronic tags that allow us to track the movements of albatrosses as well as their flight behaviour and heart rate in order to estimate their energetic expenditure. Data from these tags will be combined with satellite data on ocean winds and monitoring of chick growth and breeding success in order to understand links between wind patterns, albatross feeding behaviour and energetics.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://you.stonybrook.edu/thornelab/research/albatrosses/

 

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:

@Thorne_LH

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Lesley Thorne and Richard Phillips

EmailLesley.thorne (at) stonybrook.edu, raphil (at) bas.ac.uk

 

 

Tracking of wandering albatrosses at Bird Island

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Wandering albatrosses at South Georgia have declined catastrophically since the 1960s due to incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries. Since 2014, bycatch of seabirds has been reduced to negligible levels in fisheries operating around South Georgia because of regulations introduced under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). However, elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, continuing poor practices and weak or no enforcement of regulations means that bycatch is still a major threat for wandering albatrosses – as well as for many other seabird populations.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

The project will quantify interactions of tracked wandering albatrosses with legal and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels and will identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch for different life-history classes (age, sex, breeding status). Limited vessel-based monitoring indicate that two areas of particularly high risk for wandering albatrosses are the Patagonian Shelf and subtropical convergence. We expect to confirm these areas as important bycatch hotspots, which is crucial information for stakeholders and policy makers to improve regulations, target bycatch observer programmes and monitor compliance with recommended bycatch mitigation. We also expect that a considerable number of interactions will come from IUU fishing activities.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

While several studies have investigated overlap of seabirds with fishing effort, this is mainly based on the assumption that spatial overlap (i.e. potential for encounters) provides a proxy of potential bycatch risk. This project will greatly improve on previous coarse-scale analyses, using radar detection of fishing vessels to clearly identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch. This project also has the potential to be a “game-changer” given the capacity for identifying IUU vessels from bird-borne radar, and the scope to extend the approach to other species in future.

 

4.What are you actually going to be doing?

We will deploy recently-developed devices that record radar detection of vessels, 3-D acceleration and GPS location, together with an immersion logger providing timings of all flights and landings on wandering albatrosses during different life-history stages. We will combine this information with Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data to determine the distance at which birds respond to vessels and the proportion of time spent behind vessels (and therefore at risk). We will also quantify the number of interactions with IUU vessels in order to understand the scale of their impact, which is still largely unknown. Radar signals detected by bird-borne loggers that do not correspond with a nearby VMS or AIS signature will often originate from an IUU vessel.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/bycatch-risk-of-wandering-albatrosses-using-radar-detection/

BirdLife will launch a new marine website in autumn 2019, which will have a description of the project. So far, BirdLife has advertised the project in a news article: http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/seabird-sentinels-will-help-mitigate-bycatch

 

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:

@darwin_defra; @AlbyTaskForce; @BirdLifeMarine

 

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work
As soon as we deploy the loggers on juvenile wandering albatrosses we plan to update our BAS project website to include a map of birds being tracked in near real time using the Argos system (e.g. https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/grey-headed-albatross-juvenile-tracking/). We also plan to include maps and images on new BirdLife marine project page.

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name:Richard Phillips

EmailLesley.traphil (at) bas.ac.uk