A great challenge for Southern Ocean ecosystem science is to assess the status and trends of Southern Ocean marine ecosystems overall, against which change in ecosystem structure and function can be unambiguously assessed in the future. This challenge includes being able to assess the likelihood of different states in the future. These requirements are needed by different bodies regionally and globally for making tactical decisions, such as catch limits and conservation requirements in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and to provide strategic advice, such as in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There are three subsidiary questions to this challenge:
- How should status and trends in those ecosystems be assessed and reported and how will the likelihood of future states be assessed?
What are the gaps in knowledge that are required to be able to undertake these assessments?
a. what is the current status of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems overall?
b. what are the critical processes, mechanisms and feedbacks that directly influence the population responses of biota to change in their habitats?
- What observations need to be taken that will indicate a change in state of those ecosystems and provide suitable input to, validation or correction of assessments?
This paper summarises international initiatives and their current activities aimed at delivering circumpolar ecosystem assessments.