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    Hot spots in the ice: revealing the importance of polynyas for sustaining present and future Antarctic marine ecosystems

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    Z. Sylvester, C. Brooks, A. DuVivier, K. Krumhardt, L. Landrum, M. Holland, M. Long, S. Jenouvrier, L. Bourreau and S. Labrousse
    Submitted By:
    Dr Anton Van de Putte (Belgium)
    Approved By:
    Dr Anton Van de Putte (Belgium)

    In polar regions, polynyas – open water areas within the sea ice – are “hot spots” of high biological productivity, yet polynyas remain understudied. These hot spots play outsized roles in Antarctic sea ice production, deep water formation, global thermohaline circulation, carbon sequestration, and biological activity including phytoplankton blooms and open water access for marine predators. Connections between coastal polynyas and primary and secondary biological production are important to quantify in both present and future climate conditions. This paper presents a multi-year NASA funded research project to produce data layers of polynyas at a circum-Antarctic scale and new information on their ecosystem value at various temporal and spatial scales. The ways in which the changing physical system and ecosystem interact has implications for ecosystem monitoring and management that may be relevant in various Antarctic regions where polynyas also exist but have not been considered in spatial planning. This paper describes the novel ways in which satellite observations and coupled Earth-System-Models are being used to aid in quantifying the importance of specific areas for sustaining Antarctic ecosystems and presents preliminary results.