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Ten million dollar plan

19 November 2019

It’s the driest, coldest, windiest, place on Earth ... yet millions of critters still flourish in Antarctica. And now, thanks to 10 million dollars of multi-year funding, we’re going to know more about them and how they’ll adapt to a warming world.

The Antarctic Science Platform has just approved a major research project that will investigate how ecosystems in the Ross Sea region might respond to climate change.

Some of the coolest scientists (literally) on the planet will look at how past and current land-based and marine ecosystems have been shaped by climate conditions. This work is critical to test, verify and improve models used to inform the management and conservation of Antarctic environments in a warming world.

Within this project, researchers will study a range of creatures from starfish on the ocean floor, to invertebrates in the Transantarctic Mountains – gathering data as a basis for detecting and monitoring change.

Platform Director, Associate Professor Nancy Bertler, says this is an internationally significant project that reinforces New Zealand’s commitment to kaitiakitanga in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

“This funding gives us certainty for five years so that we can plan an ambitious, wide-ranging science programme that will improve our understanding of Antarctic ecosystems. It will allow us to develop a network of core observational sites that will be a foundation for ongoing studies in the region and a line in the sand against which to view future change.

“The project will play a substantial role in understanding the effectiveness of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area and provide evidence to inform policy decisions” Associate Professor Bertler says.

Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Miles Lamare from University of Otago, says 30 researchers from six New Zealand institutions will be involved in the project which has attracted considerable international interest.

“Collaboration with our international partners allows us to share logistics and science expertise to maximise the research effort on complex questions at key locations. Collaboration opens the door to undertaking parallel studies in different locations, which extends our ability to understand how the Ross Sea region as a whole is changing” he says.

Independent Science Panel Chair, Professor Rob Dunbar says the science is of the highest quality, comparable with the best conducted by any nation.

“This well-crafted five-year project will contribute immensely to international initiatives focused on Antarctica’s response to present and future climate change” Professor Dunbar says.

In 2018 MBIE contracted Antarctica New Zealand to host the Antarctic Science Platform. The Platform aims to conduct excellent science to understand Antarctica’s impact on the global earth system. The investment is for $49 million over 7 years through the Strategic Science Investment Fund.

Major Antarctic field expeditions for this project will begin in the next Antarctic summer research season (2020/2021)

ends

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