New Zealand is involved in a number of long term scientific projects in Antarctica with other member countries of the Antarctic Treaty.
THE LATITUDINAL GRADIENT PROJECT (LGP)
The Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP) is a framework designed to bring together diverse science groups in a collaborative manner to accumulate baseline ecological data along the Victoria Land Coastline. This project will provide input into the SCAR programme Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica (EBA). The LGP brings together scientists from various National Antarctic Programmes and projects to work towards a common goal, while maintaining a degree of individual research.
The LGP aims to:
- understand the complex ecosystems along the Victoria Land coast (Ross Sea region); and
- assess environmental change to these ecosystems.
Full details on the LGP may be found on the LGP website.
Antarctica New Zealand was project manager for the multinational Antarctic Drilling Project (ANDRILL) investigating climate change over time. This project builds upon the work of the Cape Roberts Project (see below). ANDRILL is a multinational project to improve understanding of Antarctica's role in Cenozoic (65 million years ago to present) global change,through stratigraphic drilling of marginal sedimentary basins involving New Zealand, USA, Germany and Italy. ANDRILL involves a 7-8 year plan for the McMurdo Sound area. The proposed drill sites are, New Harbour, Granite Harbour, Windless Bight, Black Island/Southern McMurdo Sound. For more information visit Antarctica New Zealand's International Polar Year website or read the latest Antarctica New Zealand Press release here. The independent environmental audit for ANDRILL can also be downloaded below.
INTERNATIONAL TRANS-ANTARCTIC SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITION (ITASE)
The International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition aims to investigate the last 200+ years of change in climate and atmospheric chemistry over the Antarctic ice sheet. Scientists are attempting to fully explain the history of the Antarctic climate and the links between the tropics and the high latitudes. Currently there is limited (mainly seasonal) Antarctic meteorological data. By combining available meteorological data from the Antarctic and Southern Ocean with information gained from ice cores ITASE is extending the Antarctic climate record. Extending the temporal coverage of data allows scientists to determine the state of natural climate variability in Antarctic climate processes.
The New Zealand ITASE sites have been chosen to capture and quantify the steep climate gradients from the Scott Coast to the Polar Plateau, the local climate system of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, and the effect of altitude within the Transantarctic Mountains. Ice cores obtained are analysed for a variety of climate parameters (e.g. moisture balance, atmospheric circulation and temperature).
The next drilling site for the NZ-ITASE project is at Roosevelt Island under the auspices of the Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution (RICE) project - website.
LONG TERM ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH (LTER) NETWORK
The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network is a collaborative effort run by the National Science Foundation investigating ecological processes over long temporal and broad spatial scales. New Zealand scientists provide base data to the project. The Network promotes cooperation and comparative research across sites and ecosystems and among other related national and international research programmes.
The LTER programme was established in 1980 to support research in a variety of scientific disciplines,on long-term ecological phenomena within 24 sites in the United States and 2 sites in Antarctica. The the McMurdo LTER is an interdisciplinary study aimed at understanding the influence of physical and biological constraints on the structure and function of dry valley ecosystems. Data is measured from the atmosphere, glaciers, streams, soils, and lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys to further this aim. The LTER is also involved with the work undertaken within the Latitudinal Gradient Project.
The McMurdo Valley's LTER involves scientists working in a variety of disciplines including:
- Microbial ecosystem dynamics in arid soils
- Ephemeral streams
- Closed basin lakes
- Resource and environmental controls on terrestrial, stream and lake ecosystems
- Material transport between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and
- Ecosystem response to greater hydrologic flux driven by warming climate.
CENSUS OF ANTARCTIC MARINE LIFE (CAML)
The Census for Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) is a 5-year project that will focus the attention of the public on the ice-bound oceans of Antarctica during the International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007/08. For more information visit Antarctica New Zealand's International Polar Year website.
BIOROSS, funded by the Ministry of Fisheries, was a multi-disciplinary scientific investigation into the biodiversity of the Ross Sea Region. The seas around Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are a rich biological resource. Despite the extreme cold and complete darkness for about three months, the area supports high biodiversity and productivity. Like much of Antarctica, the Ross Sea is under growing pressure from human activities, particularly fishing and tourist ships. The Ministry of Fisheries leads New Zealand's research into the Biodiversity of the Ross Sea (BioRoss), with input from Antarctica New Zealand.