Effects of Climate change in Polar Shallow benthic Ecosystems



First ECLIPSE field work Antarctic expedition


Important dates for this first campaign are as follows:

- 20 of November 2011 the ECLIPSE scientists participating in the first stage of the campaign departure to    Punta Arenas, where they the departure of "Las Palmas" ship to Antarctica

- 28 of November Las Palmas departed to Antarctica

- 2 of December the scientists arrived to Jubany Station together with most of the cargo

- 27 of March 2012 the last ECLIPSE scientist working at the station finished the field work and started the    trip back to Spain

We would like specially thanks the Spanish Polar Committee by the Spanish Antarctic Campaign 2011-2012, The Argentinean Antarctic Institute and the Alfred Wegener Institute for the collaboration transporting cargo and personnel to Jubany Station

Activities carried out at the Antarctic Campaign 2011-2012

At the Expedition Blog and at the picture galerie of this web page you can see images and videos about all the activities carried out

- Preparation of the Dome-Laboratory

- Plankton sampling for experiments

- Experimentation with krill

- Experimentation with salps could not be carried out since salps did not showed up at the area, plankton    was dominated by krill

- Plankton sampling for seasonal study of bio-markers

- Video Images of the bottom of Potter Cove – the first images that will be utilized for determination of ROV    sampling areas were done

- Monitoring of colonization experiments

- Installation of the Lander with the sensors

- Installation of a sediment trap close to the lander station

The following figure represent the lander station and sediment trap that was located at 30 m, in an area of strong glacier meeting influence, in Potter Cove.

Sediment Trap

Planned activities and methodology

1) Small spatial and temporal scale study. Analyses of the benthic community at Potter Cove Photo and video transects will be conducted at Potter Cove by scuba diving as well as using an ROV. An image data base exists since 1994, including photographic surveys repeated in three campaigns 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2008-09. This data set together with the new data obtained in frame of ECLIPSE, will allow analyzing changes (e.g. species composition and distribution) over a 15 years period. Data set will be analyzed together with environmental variables which have been recorded for more than 20 years in the study area. The small temporal scale will be approach by the deployment of an underwater lander during the first Antarctic campaign (Fig 1) which will continuously record several abiotic parameters. The lander will be also equipped with a sediment trap in order to record the sedimentation rates through the year with a 1 month time interval.

2) The large spatial scale approach. Benthic diversity and community structure at several places in Maxwell Bay, including Potter Cove Megaepibenthic communities structure and diversity patterns over a larger spatial scale (100 Km2) and the influence of environmental factors as substrate type, depth and glacier front influence will be studied at Maxwell Bay. Stations will be established according to their glacier influence and they will be sampled at particular depth profiles. At each depth HD video and photo transects will be performed using an ROV. This sampling design will provide replicates for both analyzed gradients: depths and glacier influence. Due to the difficulty to carried out this kind of sampling in Antarctic water, this sampling will take place in different locations but just once during the development of the project, acting as base line information for those areas allowing the detection of future potential changes.

3) Colonization and succession studies of newly ice-free areas in Potter Cove Colonization process will be studied in selected locations of some ice-free areas. A new "soft bottom" ice-free area and a "hard-bottom" ice-free area (the retreatment of the Fourcade glacier, left in 2003 an important ice-free area in the NE coast of Potter Cove including an island)will be selected in order to follow the colonization and succession process in two different systems. Further, artificial plates will be deployed in order to follow the colonization and succession process. This information will be essential to assess the resilience of these ecosystems.

4) Study of the distribution, density and demography patterns of selected species Studies on distribution, density and demography will be conducted in order to analyze small and medium scale changes, related to abiotic factors, in selected species. ROV transects will be conducted in Potter Cove and Maxwell Bay. Occurrence of the selected species will be investigated by logging the locations of organisms recorded on each of the video transect. Densities (col•m-2) of the species will be quantified through a detailed analysis the video transects. Substrates types will also be identified along each transect. Data will be analyzed by applying spatial statistics with the PASSaGE 2.0 software package .

5) Record and analyses of environmental data (Objective 3) Abiotic data are essential to interpret all biological and ecological studies that will be performed in frame of this project. These data will be partially analyzed from the historical series obtained in Potter Cove since 1994, but also considering the new data which will be punctually recorded in Maxwell Bay and at high time resolution during one year in Potter Cove. Methods Several environmental parameters (current intensity and direction, fluorescence, temperature, salinity and turbidity) will be acquired by mean of a Lander system (Fig 3). The lander will be deployed during the first Antarctic campaign in a selected location in Potter Cove (Fig 4), at approximately 30 m depth. This lander will be specifically designed to be deployed in polar shallow coastal areas. It will be equipped with high-resolution CT and ADCP devices. These in-situ measurements allow for long deployment times (one year in this case) and continuous data recording. Water samples will be collected on the area where the Lander is deployed to calibrate the collected data. Additionally, the lander will be also equipped with a sediment trap, essential in order to record particle fluxes in the area as well as the composition of the collected sediment (terrigenous or not). Abiotic parameters from the long time series from Potter Cove will be analyzed together with the new acquired data. In Maxwell bay monthly measurements of abiotic parameters will be carried in order to characterize this area and compare it with the results from the continuous recorded data from Potter cove.



Fig 3 Schematic representation of the Lander system that will be located in Potter Cove.

1) represent de current meter;

2 and 3) temperature and salinity sensors;

4) turbidity sensor,

5) fluorescence sensor.



6) Analyzes of the physiological state of benthic organisms inhabiting areas with different environmental conditions (Objective 4)
Analyses proposed bellow would give us a clear link between the current environmental changes and the community shift understanding the physiological background of these ecological observations. In addition, these studies will not only increase the general knowledge about Antarctic organisms and their response to changing environments but also enable us to make predictions of the adaptability on the individual and the population level.


Individuals of selected benthic species will be collected by scuba diving from areas with different glacier influence.  Analyses of the content and scanning electron microscopy examination of the gut will allow us to detect and characterize the ingested particles. Different tissues will be immediately frozen in liquid nitrogen and then lyophilized for stable isotopes measurements. The isotopic approach will complete the information obtained by the gut content studies. Complementary, samples from different tissues of collected organisms will be snap frozen in liquid nitrogen, stored at -80°C for the analyses of their physiologycal capacity at different environmental conditions.   Aerobic (citrate synthase activity) and anaerobic capacities (lactate and opine dehydrogenases activity) will be measured as well as their energetic resources (glycogen content) and anaerobic metabolites (i.e. Lactate concentration).

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