Special Notice: Scripps Oceanography Ecologist Statement on What's Next for Larsen C Iceberg


The calving of an iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf is a natural occurrence, though the large size of this particular iceberg is unusual. In continuation of this process, the iceberg will be caught up in local currents and eventually drifts out of the region.  Its gradual disintegration will change the ecological composition of adjacent waters. Ocean surfaces left in perpetual darkness when the ice shelf was intact will now be exposed to the atmosphere and sunlight. Photosynthesis will take place and biological activity will occur in areas where once there was none or very little. Icebergs laden with dust and sediments that they trapped when ice formed on land will seed new areas of the Weddell Sea and beyond with iron, nitrates, and other nutrients that will encourage primary productivity at the base of the ocean food web. For marine biologists and biological oceanographers, this is an important opportunity to understand the evolution of ecological systems that may accompany future trends in climate.

– Maria Vernet, phytoplankton ecologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego

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