SO GLOBEC logoSO-GLOBEC Chairperson: Prof. Eileen Hofmann

Southern Ocean GLOBEC is an international programme designed to study the year round life cycle of Antarctic Zooplankton. The UK, Germany, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the United States have initiated Southern Ocean GLOBEC programmes that are detailed below.

Although the Antarctic food web is diverse, it is characterized by short trophic linkages that are dominated by fewer than four to six species. These short trophic connections arise because the basic prey types available to predators are limited, with Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) serving as the primary prey. As a result, predators concentrate on a single prey, such as Antarctic krill, or on a core group of species, such as other euphausiids and some fish. Thus, environmental or biological perturbations can potentially affect all components of the Antarctic marine ecosystem irrespective of their initial impact. The knowledge base on which predictions about potential trophic changes that might be expected from climate and population variations is very limited. In particular, little is known about how marine animal populations adapt to austral winter, which is a critical part of many life cycles.

It is the strong linkage to climate and close coupling between trophic levels that resulted in the choice of the Southern Ocean as one of the first study sites for the Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) program, which has the goal of understanding marine population variability in response to environmental change. The primary objective of the Southern Ocean GLOBEC (SO GLOBEC) program is to understand the physical and biological factors that contribute to enhanced Antarctic krill growth, reproduction, recruitment, and survivorship throughout the year. This objective also includes the predators and competitors of Antarctic krill, such as penguins, seals, cetaceans, fish and other zooplankton. The emphasis by SO GLOBEC on habitat and top predators, as well as Antarctic krill, is a first in international interdisciplinary Antarctic science and reflects the lessons learned from prior multidisciplinary Antarctic research programs, such as the Biological Investigations of Marine Antarctic Systems and Stocks (BIOMASS), the Antarctic Marine Ecosystem Research at the Ice-Edge Zone (AMERIEZ), and the Research on Antarctic Coastal Ecosystem Rates (RACER).

The science questions developed for SO GLOBEC, as a result of four international workshops (U.S. GLOBEC Report No. 5; International GLOBEC Report Nos. 5, 7, 7A), reflect the broadening in scope to take a holistic view of the Antarctic marine ecosystem. As a result, the SO GLOBEC science programs include studies of the habitat, prey, predators and competitors of Antarctic krill, as well as studies specifically focused on Antarctic krill biology and physiology. Moreover, the year-round focus, with an emphasis on winter processes by the U.S. and German SO GLOBEC programs, provides a new and different direction in international Antarctic research.

Southern Ocean GLOBEC includes studies of:

  • Regional differences in over-wintering strategies of Antarctic krill in relation to the physical environment;
  • Population dynamics of selected zooplankton species, both sea-ice related and pelagic species;
  • Population dynamics of major krill predators, both ice-based and pelagic species;
  • Hydrographic, circulation and sea ice distributions; and
  • Modelling of circulation, sea ice, and biological processes.

For more information about SO GLOBEC visit the SO GLOBEC homepage

SO-GLOBEC is now co-sponsored by SCAR, the Scientific Committee on Antartic Research, click here for the letter of agreement between GLOBEC and SCAR.