Warnock Coauthors Antarctic Modeling Study of Seafloor Fauna

Posted on 12/19/2017 8:18:13 AM

In a world-first, an international team of scientists, including Professor Jonathan Warnock, has used data collected by satellites, ocean drilling, and an ocean model to explain and predict biodiversity on the Antarctic seafloor.

The researchers combined satellite images of phytoplankton color on the sea surface with a suite of connected models of how the microscopic phytoplankton, the base of the Antarctic food web, are swept by ocean currents, sink to the seafloor, and are then redistributed across it. They used this data to accurately predict the extent of seafloor life without the need for extensive physical sampling.

Satellite data and flow models were compared to seafloor sediment, which was analyzed for fossil phytoplankton content. These new models will help to predict how Antarctic ecosystems respond to global climate change. The models can also be used to reconstruct ecosystems in the past. Scientists have known that there was a relationship between primary productivity in the surface water and the community growing on the bottom. This is the first reliable and ground-truthed model that can both explain the connections between surface water and the sea floor while also predicting diversity of life at the seafloor. 

The culmination of their interdisciplinary work can be found in their paper titled "Abundance and richness of key Antarctic seafloor fauna correlates with modelled food availability".