Dr. Linse said, "It's important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize". Specifically, the they will be looking for things such as sea sponges, brittle stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and anything else that may have taken root under the ice.
When A-68, a trillion-ton iceberg the size of DE (or ten Madrids or two Luxembourgs, whatever you want to call it), parted ways with the Antarctic Larsen-C ice shelf in the summer of 2017, it was the largest recorded calving in history.
This provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study an ecosystem almost 6000 square kilometres in size that has been hidden for up to 120,000 years.
As part of their mission, the team will spend three weeks aboard the RRS James Clark Ross research vessel, navigating their way through icy waters, to reach the remote location.
"We've put together a team with a wide range of scientific skills so that we can collect as much information as possible in a short time".
She also added that the mission should be urged as the scientists have to study the seabed in that region before the sunlight triggers changes in the marine life there.
"We need to be bold on this one", said Professor David Vaughan, science director at BAS. And as long as sea ice stays clear of the path they plan to take, the three-week mission will get started February 21.More news: Transgender woman becomes the first in the world to breastfeed
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"Cameras have recorded seafloor animals up to (93 miles) away from the open sea on Amery ice shelf but only photos of (a) tiny area were taken through drill hole", Linse told Earther. This research saw rare squid, starfish, and more that probably won't survive when the waters change with their new exposure to surface light and different species that may settle into the new marine real estate.
"This is why we want to get there now".
Once they arrive, the team plans to collect samples of life (seafloor animals, microbes, plankton and any other inhabitants) as well as sediments and water. This area is protected under an global agreement called the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which allows researchers to visit to collect information about newly exposed ocean from calved icebergs.
"The calving of A-68 offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate sensitive region".
The team hopes that their findings will "provide a picture of what life under the ice shelf was like so changes to the ecosystem can be tracked". This agreement designates Special Areas for Scientific Study in newly exposed marine areas following the collapse or retreat of ice shelves across the Antarctic Peninsula region. And with further ice shelf destabilization expected in the coming decades, more species could suddenly be exposed to unfavorable living conditions around the continent's edge, which could expose thousands of sea creatures to an untimely death.
This will enable them to predict the future stability of the Antarctic region under climate change.