2024 01 30 RI Spengiuns adelie Lana

Adélie penguins in front of the Ross Ice Shelf. Photo: Lana Young.

Antarctica's coasts are becoming less icy

6 March 2024

An increase in pockets of open water in Antarctica’s sea ice (polynyas) may mean coastal plants and animals could one day establish on the continent, University of Otago-led research suggests.

The research, which involved Platform researchers and was published in the prestigious international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, was aimed at understanding where open water might allow coastal species to settle in the future.

Led by Research Fellow Dr Grant Duffy from Otago’s Department of Marine Science, the team found unexpected evidence the area of polynyas around Antarctica is increasing dramatically, and it follows an intriguing cycle, growing and shrinking roughly every 16 years.

“These trends are fascinating – and we haven’t noticed them before,” Dr Duffy says. “We’re not completely sure what is driving the cyclical pattern, but the ecological implications could be huge.”

- Read the full University of Otago article here.