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The Antarctic pack-ice ecosystem

The Antarctic pack-ice ecosystem

BioScience 45: 8-32

Once thought to be devoid of active life, the pack ice that surrounds Antarctica in the winter hosts a thriving and complex community. Algae growing within, on top of, and underneath the ice serve as food for krill, pteropods, copepods, amphipods, and fish, which are in turn eaten by sea birds, seals, and penguins. Bacteria live on the larger organisms and their detritus. The food web of the sea ice community changes with the extent of the ice, which appears to fluctuate on a six- to eight-year cycle and may be affected by global warming. The writer discusses the formation of ice in Antarctic waters, how it differs from Arctic sea ice, and the new, sturdier icebreakers that have opened the pack ice to scientific study.

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