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Life under the ice: biodiversity of the Southern Ocean
De Broyer, C.; Hecq, J.H.; Vanhove, S. (2001). Life under the ice: biodiversity of the Southern Ocean, in: Decleir, H. et al. (Ed.) The Belgica Expedition Centennial: perspectives on Antarctic science and history: Proceedings of the Belgica Centennial Symposium, 14-16 May 1998, Brussels. pp. 271-286
In: Decleir, H.; De Broyer, C. (Ed.) (2001). The Belgica Expedition Centennial: perspectives on Antarctic science and history - Proceedings of the Belgica Centennial Symposium, 14-16 May 1998, Brussels. VUB Brussels University Press: Brussel. ISBN 90-5487-313-2. 367 pp., more

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Document type: Conference paper

    Southern Ocean

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    In the present global context of environmental changes and accelerating loss of biodiversity, the assessment of Antarctic biodiversity, the understanding of its role in ecosystem functioning as well as the requirements for its conservation appear of critical importance. This contribution presents a brief overview of the current knowledge on Antarctic marine biodiversity and some aspects of its role in key ecological processes. It also shows how the Belgian research programme ANTAR -IV contributes to biodiversity research in Antarctica by means of three complementary approaches integrated in the international programmes SCAR EASIZ (Ecology of the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone) and SO-GLOBEC (Southern Ocean-Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamic Research). The EASIZ (Ecology of the Antarctic Sea Ice Zone) programme investigates the structure and dynamics of the marine Antarctic coastal and shelf ecosystem, the most complex and productive in Antarctica, the richest in species and likely the most sensitive to global environmental changes. Particular attention is given to the Antarctic benthic sub-system. At the macrobenthos level, the project conducted at IRScNB focuses on the description and evaluation of the ecofunctional role of biodiversity (in particular the species richness, trophodiversity and size spectra) using as target group, the peracarid crustaceans. In addition, it aims at developing new synthetic tools for the characterisation of the structural biodiversity of the Southern Ocean crustaceans and its spatial and temporal variability. The project of the Marine Biology Section of the University of Gent, also a part of EASIZ, focuses on the importance of Structural and functional biodiversity of meiobenthos for the productivity of the coastal and deep shelf zones of the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Meiofauna comrnunities contain a large number of species, usually an order of magnitude greater than for any other major benthic taxon. Emphasis is placed on the relation of the meiofauna (species, size and trophic aspects) with the micro-environment and macrobenthic structures and on the interactions between the biotic and abiotic parameters of the south polar marine environment. The meiobenthic resilience capacity to iceberg scouring is studied with particular reference to the Global Warming. In the framework of the SO-GLOBEC (Southern Ocean-Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynarnic Research) programme, the pelagic compartment of the Southern Ocean ecosystem is addressed by the Ecohydrodynarnic unit of the University of Liege. The project's main objective is to develop a coupled physica1/biological model capable of simulating multiparametric variability in biodiversity and productivity, specifically connected to climate and anthropogenic changes. Within this project, the importance of picophytoplankton at the basis of the food web will be assessed by using molecular tools for the char- acterisation of algal biodiversity. The three approaches contribute to the objective of the ANTAR-IV programme to develop a better understanding of the role of biodiversity in the production and resilience of the Southern Ocean.

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