JR161: Food webs in Antarctica


Phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean is one of the most biologically productive places on Earth, but only during the Antarctic summer (December-January). During these few months, there are sufficient nutrients and light to support tremendous blooms of marine plants (phytoplankotn, such as diatoms). Needing only nutrients and sunlight in the ocean environment, these organisms produce their own food by phtosynthesis. Once the diatom bloom begins, there is sufficient food created for the next step in the food chain.

Phytoplankton bloom in the spring and summer season in the Antarctic (October - January). The satellite images below show the retreating ice and the abundance of phytoplankton in the ocean (shown as a green color).  Such images are used to guide the ship during the cruise.

Images courtesy BAS

Find out more about food webs
10 things you didn't know about plankton

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October 2006
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