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- Science of the total environment
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We evaluated annual and regional variation in the dietary niche of Pygoscelis penguins including the sea ice-obligate Adélie penguin ( Pygoscelis adeliae ), and sea ice-intolerant chinstrap ( Pygoscelis antarcticus ) and gentoo ( Pygoscelis papua ) penguins, three species that nest throughout the western Antarctic Peninsula (AP) to test the sea ice trophic interaction hypothesis , which posits that penguin breeding populations with divergent trends, i.e., declining or increasing, are reliant on differing food webs. Our study relies on values of naturally occurring carbon ( 13 C/ 12 C, δ 13 C) and nitrogen ( 15 N/ 14 N, δ 15 N) stable isotopes as integrated proxies of penguin food webs measured over three years at three different breeding colonies. At Anvers Island in the north, where reductions in sea ice and changes in breeding population trends among sympatric sea ice-obligate (Adélie) and sea ice-intolerant (chinstrap and gentoo) penguins have been most notable, our analyses show that all three species of Pygoscelis penguins became more similar isotopically over the reproductive period. By late chick-rearing at Anvers Island, crèched chicks at 5-weeks-old for all species occupied similar trophic positions. Isotopic mixing models indicated that the proportions of prey provisioned by adult penguins to 5-week-old chicks at Anvers Island were generally similar across species within years, consisting primarily of Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ). Crèched Adélie chicks had higher δ 13 C and δ 15 N values at Avian and Charcot Islands, southern breeding colonies where sea ice is more prominent and populations of Adélie penguins have increased or remain stable. Trophic position increased with latitude, while the proportions of prey provisioned by Adélie penguin adults to chicks at southern breeding colonies included species typical of high Antarctic marine food webs, especially crystal krill ( Euphausia crystallorophias ). A Bayesian metric for dietary niche width, standard ellipse area (SEA-B), indicated that Pygoscelis penguins with greater population changes in the north had more variability in dietary niche width than stable populations further south. Our results lend insight on marine food web drivers of Pygoscelis penguin reproduction at the regional scale and question the long-standing paradigm that Antarctic krill are the only food web component critical to penguin reproductive survival in this region of the Southern Ocean.more » « less
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Desmarestia ancepsand Cystosphaera jacquinotiiare mostly absent from the central WAP, the vertical distributions of the brown macroalgae Desmarestia menziesiiand Himantothallus grandifoliusare similar to the northern WAP even though their percent cover is much lower. Likewise, the vertical distribution of the 14 most widespread red macroalgae, where they occur, mirrored those known from the northern part of the WAP even though macroalgal cover, biomass, and total species richness declined markedly to the south across this region due to increasing sea ice concentrations.
The west Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a region of marked climatic variability, exhibiting strong changes in sea ice extent, retreat of most of its glaciers, and shifts in the amount and form of precipitation. These changes can have significant impacts on the oceanic freshwater budget and marine biogeochemical processes; it is thus important to ascertain the relative balance of the drivers and the spatial scales over which they operate. We present a novel 7‐year summer‐season (October to March; 2011 to 2018) series of oxygen isotopes in seawater (δ18O), augmented with some winter sampling, collected adjacent to Anvers Island at the WAP. These data are used to attribute oceanic freshwater changes to sea ice and meteoric sources, and to deduce information on the spatial scales over which the changes are driven. Sea ice melt shows significant seasonality (∼9% range) and marked interannual changes, with pronounced maxima in seasons 2013/14 and 2016/17. Both of these extrema are driven by anomalous winds, but reflect strongly contrasting dynamic and thermodynamic sea ice responses. Meteoric water also shows seasonality (∼7% range) with interannual variability reflecting changes in the input of accumulated precipitation and glacial melt to the ocean. Unlike sea ice melt, meteoric water extremes are especially pronounced in thin (<10 m) surface layers close to the proximate glacier, associated with enhanced ocean stratification. Isotopic tracers help to deconvolve the complex spatio‐temporal scales inherent in the coastal freshwater budget, and hence improve our knowledge of the separate and cumulative physical and ecological impacts.
The Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica has long been considered the most vulnerable part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) because of the great water depth at the grounding line, a subglacial bed seafloor deepening toward the interior of the continent, and the absence of substantial ice shelves. Glaciers in this configuration are thought to be susceptible to rapid or runaway retreat. Ice flowing into the Amundsen Sea Embayment is undergoing the most rapid changes of any sector of the Antarctic ice sheets outside the Antarctic Peninsula, including substantial grounding-line retreat over recent decades, as observed from satellite data. Recent models suggest that a threshold leading to the collapse of WAIS in this sector may have been already crossed and that much of the ice sheet could be lost even under relatively moderate greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Drill cores from the Amundsen Sea provide tests of several key questions about controls on ice sheet stability. The cores offer a direct offshore record of glacial history in a sector that is exclusively influenced by ice draining the WAIS, which allows clear comparisons between the WAIS history and low-latitude climate records. Today, relatively warm (modified) Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) is impinging onto the Amundsen Sea shelf and causing melting under ice shelves and at the grounding line of the WAIS in most places. Reconstructions of past CDW intrusions can assess the ties between warm water upwelling and large-scale changes in past grounding-line positions. Carrying out these reconstructions offshore from the drainage basin that currently has the most substantial negative mass balance of ice anywhere in Antarctica is thus of prime interest to future predictions. The scientific objectives for this expedition are built on hypotheses about WAIS dynamics and related paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic conditions. The main objectives are: 1. To test the hypothesis that WAIS collapses occurred during the Neogene and Quaternary and, if so, when and under which environmental conditions; 2. To obtain ice-proximal records of ice sheet dynamics in the Amundsen Sea that correlate with global records of ice-volume changes and proxy records for atmospheric and ocean temperatures; 3. To study the stability of a marine-based WAIS margin and how warm deepwater incursions control its position on the shelf; 4. To find evidence for the earliest major grounded WAIS advances onto the middle and outer shelf; 5. To test the hypothesis that the first major WAIS growth was related to the uplift of the Marie Byrd Land dome. International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 completed two very successful drill sites on the continental rise of the Amundsen Sea. Site U1532 is located on a large sediment drift, now called the Resolution Drift, and it penetrated to 794 m with 90% recovery. We collected almost-continuous cores from recent age through the Pleistocene and Pliocene and into the upper Miocene. At Site U1533, we drilled 383 m (70% recovery) into the more condensed sequence at the lower flank of the same sediment drift. The cores of both sites contain unique records that will enable study of the cyclicity of ice sheet advance and retreat processes as well as ocean-bottom water circulation and water mass changes. In particular, Site U1532 revealed a sequence of Pliocene sediments with an excellent paleomagnetic record for high-resolution climate change studies of the previously sparsely sampled Pacific sector of the West Antarctic margin. Despite the drilling success at these sites, the overall expedition experienced three unexpected difficulties that affected many of the scientific objectives: 1. The extensive sea ice on the continental shelf prevented us from drilling any of the proposed shelf sites. 2. The drill sites on the continental rise were in the path of numerous icebergs of various sizes that frequently forced us to pause drilling or leave the hole entirely as they approached the ship. The overall downtime caused by approaching icebergs was 50% of our time spent on site. 3. A medical evacuation cut the expedition short by 1 week. Recovery of core on the continental rise at Sites U1532 and U1533 cannot be used to indicate the extent of grounded ice on the shelf or, thus, of its retreat directly. However, the sediments contained in these cores offer a range of clues about past WAIS extent and retreat. At Sites U1532 and U1533, coarse-grained sediments interpreted to be ice-rafted debris (IRD) were identified throughout all recovered time periods. A dominant feature of the cores is recorded by lithofacies cyclicity, which is interpreted to represent relatively warmer periods variably characterized by sediments with higher microfossil abundance, greater bioturbation, and higher IRD concentrations alternating with colder periods characterized by dominantly gray laminated terrigenous muds. Initial comparison of these cycles to published late Quaternary records from the region suggests that the units interpreted to be records of warmer time intervals in the core tie to global interglacial periods and the units interpreted to be deposits of colder periods tie to global glacial periods. Cores from the two drill sites recovered sediments of dominantly terrigenous origin intercalated or mixed with pelagic or hemipelagic deposits. In particular, Site U1533, which is located near a deep-sea channel originating from the continental slope, contains graded silts, sands, and gravels transported downslope from the shelf to the rise. The channel is likely the pathway of these sediments transported by turbidity currents and other gravitational downslope processes. The association of lithologic facies at both sites predominantly reflects the interplay of downslope and contouritic sediment supply with occasional input of more pelagic sediment. Despite the lack of cores from the shelf, our records from the continental rise reveal the timing of glacial advances across the shelf and thus the existence of a continent-wide ice sheet in West Antarctica during longer time periods since at least the late Miocene. Cores from both sites contain abundant coarse-grained sediments and clasts of plutonic origin transported either by downslope processes or by ice rafting. If detailed provenance studies confirm our preliminary assessment that the origin of these samples is from the plutonic bedrock of Marie Byrd Land, their thermochronological record will potentially reveal timing and rates of denudation and erosion linked to crustal uplift. The chronostratigraphy of both sites enables the generation of a seismic sequence stratigraphy for the entire Amundsen Sea continental rise, spanning the area offshore from the Amundsen Sea Embayment westward along the Marie Byrd Land margin to the easternmost Ross Sea through a connecting network of seismic lines.more » « less
null (Ed.)Sea ice is critical in structuring Antarctic marine ecosystems, controlling disturbance and primary productivity. Sea ice either melts annually or persists for multiple years, but variability in sea-ice duration is poorly understood prior to satellite images. The Antarctic scallop Adamussium colbecki, with its circum-Antarctic distribution and Holocene fossil history, may be a proxy for sea-ice duration. Previous work on A. colbecki links some trace elements to ice melt and productivity. Further, increments between growth bands (striae) are thought to vary seasonally. To evaluate A. colbecki suitability as a sea-ice proxy, we tested correspondence between growth and trace elements known to represent sea ice or productivity at two sites in western McMurdo Sound: Explorers Cove (EC) with multiannual sea ice and Bay of Sails (BOS) with annual sea ice. Trace element signals should be dampened or absent at EC, whereas those from BOS should cycle annually. One A. colbecki shell each from EC and BOS were collected live in 12 m of water. Trace elements previously linked to ice melt (Mn/Ca, Fe/Ca, and Pb/Ca), metabolism (Mg/Ca), and primary productivity (Ba/Ca, Li/Ca) were sampled from interstrial increments using an LA-ICP-MS along the central axis from umbo to last striae. Interstrial distances (ISDs) were measured and compared to trace elements using wavelet coherence analysis. Coherence (covariance between ISD and trace elements) exceeding 95% significance are reported here. Results indicate that ISD and trace elements only cohere during episodic sea-ice melt at EC and cohere throughout adult growth at BOS. All EC trace element concentrations display a common pattern: cyclic growth followed minimal variation in early adult ontogeny, with intermittent variation resuming later in adult growth. In contrast, trace elements from the BOS scallop exhibit strong cyclic behavior throughout ontogeny. ISD coheres with trace elements at EC for short strial sequences (5-30) twice in adult growth, corresponding to partial sea ice melts at EC during 1999 and 2002. Conversely, BOS trace elements cohere with ISD for long (20-140) strial sequences during adult growth, indicating annual sea-ice melt. Results indicate that A. colbecki archives sea-ice duration, thus its fossil record can be used to investigate past variability.more » « less