Biology

Silk from the CPR showing zooplankton captured on the mechanically advanced silks
Silk from the CPR showing zooplankton captured on the mechanically advanced silks (Photo: R. O’Driscoll)
Every year since 1991 Australia has been studying changes in plankton communities of the Southern Ocean using ‘continuous plankton recorders’. The program now includes seven countries. The work has shown movement of warmer water (northerly) species further south, consistent with changes detected in ocean water quality and temperature.

Australia is also coordinating the international Census of Antarctic Marine Life for the International Polar Year (2007–2009), which will provide a benchmark of biodiversity in the Southern Ocean from which future changes can be observed.

Terrestrial research in the sub-Antarctic has shown changes in the dates of flowering and seed setting, as temperatures rise. A new project, Aliens in Antarctica (part of the International Polar Year, 2007–09), is examining the threat of invasion from non-native species (such as plants, fungi and insects), carried on cargo and clothing worn by people visiting Antarctica.