AUCKLAND, August 24 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – A new atlas containing the most comprehensive audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean for 45 years will provide a strong indicator of the health of the rest of the planet, a spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) told RIA Novosti Sunday.
“The audit tells us quite a lot about the health of the rest of the planet. Animals are an incredible means to getting a broader picture of what is happening on earth,” Linda Capper, BAS’s Head of Communications, said.
The atlas, which contains four-year work, is being launched at the Open Science Conference in Auckland by the Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) and follows an unprecedented international scientific collaboration involving 147 scientists from 91 institutions across 22 countries including Russia, the US, France, Germany, South Africa and Brazil amongst others.
It is the first time since 1969 that an audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean has been conducted.
“Doing the field work for that kind of research is a big international effort, takes a lot of time, a lot of resources and there are new technologies available now that weren’t around in the 1960s. It is a major piece of work that brings together a lot of studies over years but new advances have been made because of new techniques to help us understand what is in the environment,” Capper said.
“General speaking, species in the natural environment are indicators of the health of the planet and scientists are looking at the populations, the abundance of these animals and sometimes you just need to have a baseline study to understand what changes are ahead,” the spokeswoman added.
The Atlas containing 100 color photographs and over 800 maps records more than 9,000 species in the Southern Ocean, ranging from microbes to whales.
“This is the first time that all the records of the unique Antarctic marine biodiversity, from the very beginnings of Antarctic exploration in the days of Captain Cook, have been compiled, analyzed and mapped by the scientific community. It has resulted in a comprehensive atlas and an accessible database of useful information on the conservation of Antarctic marine life,” Chief editor of the new Atlas, Claude De Broyer of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, told RIA Novosti.