News Release

International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference, Norway: 'Polar Science -- Global Impact'

British Antarctic Survey scientists will present their latest research finding at the International Polar Year Science Conference in Oslo -- the largest assembly of polar scientists in history

Peer-Reviewed Publication

British Antarctic Survey

In June (8-12) teams of scientists from more than 60 countries will share the first results of their studies carried out during a major international effort to understand the polar regions and their impact on global issues such as climate change, biodiversity and health. British Antarctic Survey scientists will present their latest research finding at the International Polar Year Science Conference in Oslo - the largest assembly of polar scientists in history.

British Antarctic Survey posters, talks and themed sessions include:

Ocean currents speed up movement of krill to South Georgia

Angelika Renner
Tuesday 8 June @ 10.45
Mobile: +44 (0) 7731 114921; Email:
Session: T3-8

An International Polar Year field experiment provided the basis for a new model to track the transportation of Antarctic krill - the major food source for penguins, whales and seals – around the Southern Ocean.

Modelling suggests that changes in surface currents of the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic Peninsula are linked to the winds around Antarctica. Crucial components of the Antarctic food chain - *phytoplankton, *zooplankton and krill (a shrimp-like invertebrate), are transported by ocean currents. It is likely that Antarctic winds have an impact on the ecosystem in the Weddell and Scotia Seas.

Scientists created a computer model to track the transport of krill (from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula into the Bellingshausen Sea over 43 years from 1960-2002. They found that the surface currents were speeding up the transport of krill to the sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. These changes can be linked to changes in the force of the wind, suggesting a link to human-induced climate change. Faster transports of krill to South Georgia can influence the ecosystem by reducing the age and size of the Antarctic krill near the island. Since krill is a major food source for many predators, a reduction in the mass of krill can heavily impact on the bird and marine mammal populations around South Georgia and in the Scotia Sea.

Phytoplankton - microscopic floating aquatic plants
Zooplankton – microscopic floating animals
Still images available from Press Office

Conservation of Antarctica's plants and animals

Prof. Pete Convey
Tuesday 8 June @ 11.15
Tel: +44 (0)1223 221588; Email:
Session: T4-6

Scientific research conducted in the Polar Regions is crucial for understanding the world. Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations are the hubs where ground breaking discoveries are made. However, scientists recognise that human occupation of these pristine environments has an impact on local plant and animal life and have a strong incentive to ensure effective conservation measures are in place. This new review, based on existing and new data produced during the International Polar Year, summarises existing knowledge of the impacts of human activities on land-based (terrestrial) plants and animals and their ecosystems in Antarctica. It also identifies management priorities for their conservation in the face of increasing human activity. Impacts already observed across many of the sub-Antarctic islands, and more limited examples from the Antarctic Peninsula region, stress the urgency to improve understanding of the requirements for (and delivery of) effective conservation measures at these locations. The report is a timely warning of the implications of human activity for terrestrial ecosystems on the Antarctic Peninsula and continent. The conservation of Antarctic *flora and *fauna is regulated mainly under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991). The various sub-Antarctic islands are regulated separately with varying levels of environmental protection and management enacted under their national legal systems. Since the creation and implementation of these national and international measures, the intensity and diversity of human activities have increased. New research stations, and improved ship and aircraft links, enable more people to have faster and easier access to and throughout Antarctica, while also greatly enhancing the pursuit of important scientific investigations. This inevitably poses challenges for the management and conservation of Antarctic ecosystems. This paper sets the scene for engagement with national Antarctic operators, tourism organisations and conservation NGOs – all of which share the common interest and desire to minimise their environmental impact.

Flora – plant life
Fauna – animal life

Still images available from press office

Spot the difference – marine life at the poles

Dr. Geraint Tarling
Tuesday 8 June @ 15:15
Mobile: +44 (0) 79 101 86486; Email:
Session: T3-8

An International Polar Year study sheds new light on the fundamental differences between marine ecosystems and food webs in both the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica. The findings have important implications for the sustainable management of polar fisheries and for food security.

Through studies of long-term observations of the Southern Ocean ecosystem scientists conclude that, as a general rule, in ocean communities similar amounts of *biomass occur in animal groups of different body sizes. For example by knowing how many *zooplankton live in the ocean, the populations of fish living off these microscopic floating animals can be estimated, since the biomass of both groups should be roughly the same. That is providing that the fish have not been already exploited commercially.

Although this rule works well in the Southern Ocean, the picture is different in the Arctic. The best explanation of this difference features the role of krill (shrimp-like invertebrates), which dominate the Southern Ocean. These herbivores mainly eat *phytoplankton. However, in the Arctic, krill is replaced by larval fish which eat zooplankton, especially copepods, so decreasing their numbers. This throws out the general size-based rule.

This work highlights the major differences between both polar oceans. In the Arctic the number of organisms in each species appears to be controlled from the top of the food chain, whilst in Antarctica the reverse is true. It is more difficult to predict the number of Arctic fish stocks than it is to predict krill numbers in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Biomass – living matter
Zooplankton – microscopic floating animals
Phytoplankton - microscopic floating aquatic plants

Still images available from press office

Climate variability affects food for penguins and seals

Dr. Simeon Hill
Tuesday 8 June @ 15.30
Tel: (0)1223 221233; Email:
Session: T3-8

A study of the marine ecosystem around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia highlights the impact of climate variability on penguins and seals.

The small shrimp-like crustacean, krill, is one of the most important parts of the foodweb at South Georgia and elsewhere in the Antarctic. It is thought to be vulnerable to environmental variability and change. Evidence of this was observed through ecosystem monitoring work during the two summers of the International Polar Year period. During the first summer the local populations of penguins and seals were well-fed and healthy – there was plenty of krill in the sea, but in the second summer krill was scarce and many penguin chicks and seal pups starved.

When krill are scarce smaller crustaceans called copepods thrive. These are too small for penguins and seals to find and eat, but these animals can feed on fish and larger plankton that, in turn, feed on copepods.

The model shows that, in the long-run, fewer penguins and seals can survive when krill are scarce because much of the energy that would be available in krill is used up by copepod-eating animals.

Still images available from Press Office

Chemical impurities in ice provide clues to past climate

Dr. Eric Wolff
Tuesday 8 June @ 16.00
Tel: (0)1223 221491; Email:
Session: T2-1

A unique record of past climate is locked deep in Antarctica's vast *ice sheets. Scientists extract samples of ice, and using a number of different analysis techniques, reconstruct a picture of past temperature and levels of greenhouse gases like CO2. The oldest Antarctic ice reveals the longest record of past climate.

Electrical conductivity of the traces of chemical impurities in the ice can be measured at *ice core sampling sites using sensitive instruments and influences traces seen from the air using *radar technology. By linking the chemistry, the ice core conductivity and the airborne radar, scientists hope to identify deep-field sampling locations where the ice is oldest and most likely to give an accurate picture of past climate.

As part of an International Polar Year project the electrical and chemical properties were measured on a range of ice cores from a number of different sites around Antarctica.

Ice sheet — the huge mass of ice, up to 4km thick that covers bedrock in Antarctica or Greenland. It flows from the centre of the continent towards the coast where it feeds ice shelves
Ice core – cylindrical section of ice removed from an ice sheet in order to study past climate patterns Radars - a method that uses high-frequency radio pulses to detect size and shape of objects

Still images available from Press Office

East Antarctica's 'Ghost mountains' mapped

Dr. Tom Jordan
Tuesday 8 June @09.30
Tel: +44 (0)1223 221305; Email:
Session@ T2-7

Dr. Kathryn Rose
Tuesday 8 June @ 16.00
Tel: (0)1223 2211288; Email:
Session: T5-3

One of the first images of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains (GSM), huge mountains found under three kilometre thick ice in Antarctica, will be presented at the IPY Oslo Science Conference. Located in the centre of East Antarctica, this mountain range is thought to mark the birthplace of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS).

Antarctica's Gamburtsev Province (AGAP) project was a significant contribution to the IPY, accomplishing a major aerogeophysical survey of this previously unexplored area. These images reveal, with unprecedented detail, the high-relief alpine-style make-up of the GSM and the deep subglacial basins in which the Lambert Glacier flows – the largest glacier in the world. An improved understanding of this massive region is key to predicting its potential contribution to sea level rise.

Scientists have mapped a network of valleys branching across the entire mountain range, which were carved by both fluvial and glacial activity – water and ice. Studying the presence of subglacial water and how it is connected throughout these valleys will help to build an important picture of the evolution and stability of the East Antarctic Ice sheet.

For more information on the AGAP project please visit:

Still images available from Press Office

New book aids squid identification

Dr Jose Xavier
Wednesday 9 June @ 09.30
Tel: 00351 936728419; Email:
Session: T3-8

The first definitive guide to Antarctica's top predators will be presented on Wednesday 9 June at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference - the largest assembly of polar scientists in history.

Made possible only by the global collaborative effort of the International Polar Year (IPY 2007-2008), a new book focuses on the relationship between marine life and its environment, and the sustainability of marine life, providing essential knowledge for the management of global food security.

The most important aspect of sustainable management of the Southern Ocean ecosystem is to understand the food chain and "who eats whom". Scientists have developed a range of techniques to identify the species eaten by top predators such as albatrosses, seals, penguins and whales including identifying the squid and octopuses (cephalopods) found in the predators' diets, which are an essential source of food for these charismatic animals. They are also highly valued by humans and are fished commercially.

Accurate identification of cephalopods is difficult in the diets and can be done mainly by examining the bone-like structure that forms their beaks (mandibles). During the IPY, José Xavier and Yves Cherel developed a guide characterising the beaks of Antarctic squid and octopuses of the Southern Ocean. It has become essential reading for all researchers involved in programmes that monitor changes to the Southern Ocean ecosystem and inform the sustainable management of commercial fishing, like those developed by Dr Richard Phillips (Tel: +44 (0)1223 221610; Email:

Still images and video footage available from Press Office

Keeping a lid on the ice cap

Dr. Markus Frey
Wednesday 9 June @ 10.00
Mobile: +44 (0) 7514 951861; Email:
Session: T1-3

A science team presents their observations of concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) - a gas that plays a key role in Antarctica's atmospheric chemistry – measured for the first time at one of the highest points (Dome C) on the East Antarctic Plateau. Their findings will improve atmospheric chemistry models of the Antarctic *troposphere and, refine the interpretation of ice core records.

Nitrogen oxides influence the self-cleansing capacity of the atmosphere, for example, through control of the production of ozone - a *greenhouse gas and pollutant.

In Antarctica, levels of NOx vary across the continent with unusually high amounts at the South Pole. Previous research in revealed that polar snow is a makes a significant contribution of NOx to the lower atmosphere. Sunlight drives reactive nitrogen out of the *snow pack.

The research team found similarities between the amounts of the gas measured at South Pole and at Dome C. They were surprised to find a strong daily cycle of nitrogen oxide production with maximum concentrations occurring not at noon but during evenings. These findings help explain the relationship between the source of the gas from the snow pack, and the mixing of the atmosphere above it.

The team report that at certain times during the day the atmosphere at the surface of Dome C acts as a "lid", preventing emissions of NOx from being released from the snow pack. Since Dome C is assumed to be representative for large areas of the East Antarctic Plateau, these findings will be significant for two reasons: firstly they will give a better understanding of how to include the upper snow pack into atmospheric chemistry models of the Antarctic *troposphere and, secondly, the findings will contribute to the interpretation ice core records with regard to reactive nitrogen levels in the atmosphere in the past climate - so far not well understood.

Troposphere – the lowest region of the earth's atmosphere, closest to its surface
Greenhouse gas – an atmospheric gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect
Snow pack – an area of naturally fallen snow on the ground

Still image available from Press Office

Polar View satellite enhances ice studies

Andrew Fleming
Wednesday 9 June @ 14.00
Mobile: +44 (0) 7989306566; Email:
Session: T5-5

A powerful satellite system developed during International Polar Year provides real-time access to very high quality images of sea ice, snow, rivers, lakes, ice and glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctica. Scientists and national polar organisations benefit from 'Polar View' in their quest to understand changes in the polar environment and to plan field campaigns and ship operations in these frozen worlds.

Enhanced safety and access to quality ice data resulting from the creation of Polar View is a major benefit of this IPY partnership project. For the first time local communities, businesses and policy makers in the North have access to reliable new information to help them adapt to a changing environment and perhaps mitigate the associated risks.

Still images available from Press Office

New techniques to predict future sea level rise

Dr. Louise Sime
Friday 11 June @ 16:00 – 17:30
Mobile: +44 (0)7913 110175; Email:
Session: T2-3

A new and exciting technique to analyse thousands of radar images of the vast Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets could improve the accuracy of predictions for future sea-level rise.

In recent years international teams of scientists have mounted major field campaigns to capture 'pictures' of what lies beneath the surface of polar ice sheets. Airborne Radar Echo Sounding (RES) captures information about the age structure and *flow dynamics of the ice from the surface to bedrock. Analysis and interpretation of hundreds of thousands of kilometres of RES aerial surveys taken over Antarctica has up till now been done manually.

A new automated RES analysis technique has great potential for extracting all the ice layer information contained in pre-existing and future airborne RES datasets more efficiently. This will greatly advance the understanding of the behaviour of polar ice sheets in a warming climate and shed new light on the factors affecting ice flow - especially important as even a modest change in *ice sheet volume will strongly affect future sea level.

Ice flow - a region of an ice sheet that moves significantly faster than the surrounding ice
Ice sheet — the huge mass of ice, up to 4km thick that covers bedrock in Antarctica or Greenland. It flows from the centre of the continent towards the coast where it
feeds ice shelves

Still images available from Press Office

Weather patterns affect polar sea-ice

Professor John Turner
Thursday 10 June @ 14.00
Tel: +44 (0)1223 221485; Email:
Session: T1-4

Understanding how polar sea ice responds to global change – whether human induced or as part of a natural process – is really important if scientists are to make accurate predictions about the Earth's future climate. Scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reveal that while Arctic sea ice has been decreasing at a significant rate over the last 30 years, sea ice around the Antarctic has increased over the same period.

This slight increase can be explained by changing weather patterns caused by the hole in the ozone layer which has shielded the continent from most of the effects of 'global warming', giving a small cooling over the last 30 years.

Sea ice plays a key role in the global environment – reflecting heat from the sun and providing a habitat for marine life. At both poles sea ice cover is at its minimum during summer. However, during the winter freeze in Antarctica this ice cover expands to an area roughly twice the size of Europe. Ranging in thickness from less than a metre to several metres, the ice insulates the warm ocean from the frigid atmosphere above. Satellite images show that since the 1970s the extent of Antarctic sea ice has increased at a rate of 100,000 square kilometres a decade.

Still images available from Press Office

Aliens in Antarctica

Dr. Kevin Hughes
Friday 11 June pm and Saturday 12 June am
Tel: +44 (0)1223 221616; Email:
Session: T3-2

Professor Pete Convey
Friday 11 June @ 15.00
Tel: +44 (0)1223 221588; Email:
Session: T5-1

An alien species introduced by humans to Antarctica in the 1960s has not only survived, but thrived in the cold, harsh conditions. Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered millions of larvae from a tiny fly (a chironomid midge) living in the soil on Signy Island.

This non-native species of the fly was taken from South Georgia and inadvertently introduced to Signy Island (a much colder island within the Antarctic region) as part of a scientific experiment to see whether plant transplants would survive. The larvae of the fly survived in the soil on the island, whereas most plants that were introduced at the same time did not (those that did survive were removed). A very small worm (an enchytraeid) that was also introduced at the same time has survived in only very small numbers.

The fly is now well established and there are up to 410,000 fly larvae per square metre in the area around the introduction site. The adult fly has only remnant wings and cannot fly; but the species has spread up to 220m away from the introduction site. Since this discovery scientists have been monitoring the significant spread of the alien species in order to gain a better understanding of how such species affect the native ecosystem.

Over the last two centuries human activities have led to the accidental introduction and establishment on land of many alien species of vertebrate, invertebrate and plant, particularly to the sub-Antarctic islands. These introductions include organisms with functions that are poorly or not represented in the native ecosystems, and in some cases have led to drastic alterations in ecosystem structure and function.

Still images available from Press Office



Issued by British Antarctic Survey Press Office:
Heather Martin, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221414; Mobile: 07740 822229; Email:
Linda Capper, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221448; Mobile: 07714 233744; Email@
See notes below for details of BAS Press Centre in Oslo

Still images and video footage available at:

Images used must be credited to British Antarctic Survey


Venue: Norway Convention and Exhibition Centre, Lillestrom (11 mins from Oslo Central Station)
*Free registration for journalists:
Further information:


IPY was an intensive, internationally co-ordinated scientific research campaign in the Arctic and the Antarctic sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In two action-packed years, IPY researchers observed exciting new phenomena, made fundamental scientific discoveries, developed new methods and tools, advanced interdisciplinary and international links in polar science and, most importantly, gained new understanding of the role of the Polar Regions in the total Earth system.


Linda Capper and Heather Martin will be available to arrange interviews with scientists at the IPY Press Centre (located half-way down the 'polar street') at the Oslo Science Conference from Monday 7 June to Friday 11 June

Journalists are welcome to use the Press Centre to meet scientists from all the participating organisations. Computers with Internet access, phone lines and meeting rooms will also be available

Linda and Heather can be contacted before, during and after the conference at any time by: visiting the Press Centre (during conference); by phone or by email (any time) – please see contact details listed above

During the conference BAS scientists will be contactable via mobile phone or face-to-face

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council, delivers world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions.

Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that underpins a productive economy and contributes to a sustainable world. Its numerous national and international collaborations, leadership role in Antarctic affairs and excellent infrastructure help ensure that the UK maintains a world leading position. BAS has over 450 staff and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica.

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