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Ross Sea 2004 Discovery voyage begins

Ross Sea 2004 Discovery voyage begins

A discovery voyage to the Ross Sea, Antarctica, begins next week, Monday 26 January, 100 years after the famous 1902 - 1904 voyage to Antarctica by Captain Robert Scott in his ship "Discovery".

The 2004 discovery research project, "Ross Sea 2004", will take place from January to March 2004. It is jointly funded by the Ministry of Fisheries and Land Information New Zealand, uses NIWA divers and scientists, and is in cooperation with the Italian Antarctic Research Programme.

The project is highly likely to discover species new to the region and to science. It aims to improve understanding and knowledge of the biodiversity of the Ross Sea, and the ability to effectively manage human activities in the region. It will also provide scientific information to support New Zealand's efforts to establish a protected area around, and including, the Balleny Islands archipelago. Another benefit will be valuable baseline biodiversity information for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

The Ministry of Fisheries is funding the New Zealand research through the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy research programme "BioRoss", established to improve our understanding of the biodiversity of the Ross Sea.

Two research vessels will be used: NIWA's Research Vessel Tangaroa, and the Italian Research Vessel Italica.

On board the New Zealand Research Vessel Tangaroa, between 28 January and 13 March 2004, a team of New Zealand and Italian scientists will investigate the biodiversity of deepwater invertebrates and fish communities of the Ross Sea and the seamounts around the Balleny Islands.

Land Information New Zealand is funding a team of hydrographers to continue work charting the Ross Sea. They will share the vessel time on the RV Tangaroa.

The marine research team will describe and quantify the diversity of bottom dwelling invertebrates and fish communities, and try to determine the importance of different environmental factors influencing these communities.

On board the Italian Research Vessel Italica, from 26 January until 5 March 2004, a New Zealand scientific dive team will investigate the biodiversity and community structure of the Ross Sea coastal zone. The RV Italica will work between Terra Nova Bay and Cape Adare, allowing the researchers to investigate whether there is a change in biodiversity or community structure as they move further north.

The surveys will improve understanding of the processes and functions binding Antarctic species in an ecological community. Previous research on species diversity and abundance has revealed strong patterns, but there is insufficient information to predict the likely impact on Ross Sea marine communities of changes in ice conditions resulting from climate change or human activities.

In order to collect as much information as possible, a system called "Multibeam" will be used. This is an acoustic mapping tool which shows a picture of the seafloor, and allows scientists to examine the communities living there. Grabs, dredges and trawl nets will be used to retrieve specimens. The RV Tangaroa will work between Coulman Island in the south and the Balleny Islands to the north, depending on sea-ice conditions.

To view the daily diary and voyage discoveries, see http://www.rosssea2004.govt.nz


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