Fate of carbon in Antarctic fjords under increased glacial melt impact

01 October 2019 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
No data available
Carbon cycle Carbon burial Benthos Western Antarctic Peninsula Fjords Climate change Glacial melt
Project description

The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is experiencing drastic changes. The sea ice season has shortened by almost 100 days and 87 % of all glaciers at the WAP are in retreat, with far going impacts on the marine realm. An important aspect of glacial melt on which currently little is known, is the effect on the benthic carbon cycle. Polar fjords are hotspots of carbon burial, which has a climate regulating effect. However, glacial melt disturbance in terms of suspended solids and iceberg scouring can cancel this negative feedback on climate change, by negatively affecting primary production and benthic biomass. In the light of further increases in glacier retreat, it is crucial to understand how the benthic carbon cycle will be altered by these disturbances. In the proposed project, I will study WAP fjords with contrasting glacial melt impacts. I will model the empirical and experimental data gathered during my first FWO post-doc term, to predict benthic secondary production, carbon mineralization and carbon burial in contrasting glacial melt conditions. These results are crucial to forecast whether WAP fjords under increased  climate change impact will function as carbon sources or sinks.