Antarctic ecosystem responses following ice-shelf collapse and iceberg calving: Science review and future research

Academic Article


  • The calving of A-68, the 5,800-km2, 1-trillion-ton iceberg shed from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017, is one of over 10 significant ice-shelf loss events in the past few decades resulting from rapid warming around the Antarctic Peninsula. The rapid thinning, retreat, and collapse of ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula are harbingers of warming effects around the entire continent. Ice shelves cover more than 1.5 million km2 and fringe 75% of Antarctica's coastline, delineating the primary connections between the Antarctic continent, the continental ice, and the Southern Ocean. Changes in Antarctic ice shelves bring dramatic and large-scale modifications to Southern Ocean ecosystems and continental ice movements, with global-scale implications. The thinning and rate of future ice-shelf demise is notoriously unpredictable, but models suggest increased shelf-melt and calving will become more common. To date, little is known about sub-ice-shelf ecosystems, and our understanding of ecosystem change following collapse and calving is predominantly based on responsive science once collapses have occurred. In this review, we outline what is known about (a) ice-shelf melt, volume loss, retreat, and calving, (b) ice-shelf-associated ecosystems through sub-ice, sediment-core, and pre-collapse and post-collapse studies, and (c) ecological responses in pelagic, sympagic, and benthic ecosystems. We then discuss major knowledge gaps and how science might address these gaps. This article is categorized under: Climate, Ecology, and Conservation > Modeling Species and Community Interactions.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ingels J; Aronson RB; Smith CR; Baco A; Bik HM; Blake JA; Brandt A; Cape M; Demaster D; Dolan E
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 1