Image courtesy of NASA
The Antarctic Peninsula is the third fastest warming region in the world (Clarke et al., 2006). In this image, scientists at NASA have compiled temperature data since the 1950s to show the degrees warmed per decade.
Photo by Allison Cusick
Fjords are narrow inlets along the coast with steep sided valleys carved by past glaciers. They can mainly be found in the Arctic, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Alaska, Antarctica, Chile, and New Zealand. Antarctic fjords along the west Antarctic Peninsula are thought to be hotspots for biodiversity, providing refuge for krill and whale aggregations.
Photo courtesy of Bob GIlmore
Diatom photo by Maria Stenzel
Phytoplankton are microscopic, plant-like creatures that drift in the ocean using sunlight to make energy through a process called photosynthesis.
- They make up the foundation of the food system, supporting all other animals such as whales, seals, and penguins.
- They play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the deep ocean.
- They contribute to over half of the Earth’s oxygen — more than the trees and plants on land combined!
That is one mighty invisible forest.
Arctic vs Antarctic Fjords
Image courtesy of NASA
Arctic and Antarctic fjords do not behave in quite the same way. Due to frequent seasonal freeze/thaw cycles in the Northern Hemisphere, Arctic fjords receive more silt and sediment input from melting glaciers on land. These particles get suspended in the sea and reduce levels of phytoplankton growth. Antarctic fjords do not experience the same level of sediment runoff from land, and researchers are finding an abundance of life in the water and on the fjord seabed.
Image courtesy of BBC
This project was supported in part by the NASA’s Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program (CSESP) award # 20-CSESP2020-0039 (2021), and National Science Foundation Public Participation in STEM Research (PPSR) extension to NSF award # PLR-1443705 (2017), as well as from a grant award from Hurtigruten Foundation (2018), and from generous donors (2019). You can help us keep this project going through a financial contribution here – we appreciate all the support!