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Scott expeditions: Clues for climate change

Antarctic (global-adventures.us): Research done by captain Robert Falcon Scott, a Royal Navy officer who reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, almost 100 year ago could prove useful again by offering clues about environmental changes. The British explorer collected tiny bryozoans, marine creatures known as Ectoprocta or moss animals, during the Discovery Expedition from 1901 to 1904 and the Terra Nova Expedition from 1910 to 1913. By comparing present-day specimen with the samples collected during Scott’s expeditions. Scientists have found the first conclusive evidence of increased carbon uptake and storage by Antarctic marine life.

For the first time we’ve been able to use the longest record of animal growth as evidence of rapid recent change to life on the seabed says Dr. Dave Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Scott’s biological collections are considerable in quality and quantity. He will continue to become even more valuable for determining how life responds to change across time. Few biological studies in Antarctica go back more than 30 years. So these data are invaluable and highlight the importance of long-term monitoring.

Barnes is the lead author of a study published in the journal Current Biology.

A international team of scientists examined annual growth bands in skeletons of bryozoans collected from Antarctica’s Ross Sea during the Census of Antarctic Marine Life. When compared with museum collections in the UK, US and New Zealand including specimens from Scott’s expeditions. They found that since 1990 bryozoans grew more rapidly than at any time before. The most likely explanation is greater availability of food (phytoplankton). The findings suggest that this new growth is an important mechanism for transferring carbon into the sea bed.

The spurt in growth means that animals reach the size earlier at which ocean currents snap them off. As the animals topple over, they bury carbon, therefore increasing the seabed’s potential as a carbon sink.

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Chief Editor at Global Adventures Magazine

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