Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Antarctica's ecosystems need to be preserved

Antarctica is home of many unique species that are found nowhere else in the world. But global warming and frequent ship traffic are making things very difficult for many marine species, and could even lead them to the brink of extinction. What researchers fear the most are predatory crabs that are poised to return to warming Antarctic waters and disrupt balance in marine ecosystems. As long as water remains too cold for them they do not have chance for survival but Antarctica's "cold safety" is starting to fall apart as for instance temperatures at the sea surface off the western Antarctic Peninsula went up 1°C in the last 50 years.

Antarctica is warming fast. Temperatures at the sea surface off the western Antarctic Peninsula went up 1°C in the last 50 years

Another problem beside global warming is frequent ship traffic that is introducing exotic crab invaders from different parts of the world. When ships dump their ballast water in the Antarctic seas, marine larvae from as far away as the Arctic are injected into the system. Researchers say that populations of predatory king crabs are already living in deeper waters because they are slightly warmer, and if warming trend continues we could really say goodbye forever to many unique species.

Crab invasion is great threat to Antarctica's fauna, and losing many unique species in one of last remaining truly wild places on Earth would really be tragic. Unfortunately without the control of both CO2 emissions as well as ship traffic frequency this scenario looks imminent.

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