Research divers go below Antarctic sea ice to investigate the effect of rising sea levels on sea bed

Researchers have battled minus-2-degree water and the distraction of seals to complete a world-first study on the ocean floor.

A crew of 15 scientists and divers conducted the first investigation of the effect of carbon dioxide on the ocean floor in Antarctica.

Project leader Jonny Stark said the conditions made for a heavy workload.

“During the 12 weeks of the study we did over 200 dives, spending about 200 hours in almost minus-2-degree (Celsius) water,” Dr Stark said.

“The human body can only take those sorts of temperatures for about an hour, so we had to continually rotate divers and ensure they could be warmed up quickly once out of the water.”

The team examined the how the ecosystem would cope with acidification if the water was to rise as a result of increased carbon emissions.

With more acidity, species such as krill become threatened thus endangering the food supply of many species of marine animals.

“The rate and scale of the changes we are seeing in the Southern Ocean are unprecedented,” Dr Stark said.

“It’s critical that we are able to get a clearer picture of how ocean acidification will impact the marine ecosystems into the future.”

Dr Stark said polar waters were currently acidifying at twice the rate of tropical waters.

He said the Southern Ocean alone was absorbing 40 per cent of the world’s ocean uptake of carbon dioxide.

The experiment was one of 28 research projects conducted by the Antarctic Division over summer.

Kieran Jones, ABC News, 22 April 2015. Article.


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