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Southern Ocean System

The Southern Ocean System is one of the seven marine systems within the EUR-OCEANS Network of Excellence.

The Southern Ocean System aims to coordinate science activities with links to the Southern Ocean, across the ten EUR-OCEANS Work Packages

This site aims to present relevant information specific to the Southern Ocean System and more general information about EUR-OCEANS can be found at www.eur-oceans.org.

What is the role of the Southern Ocean in global change?

The Southern Ocean (SO) connects all three of the World's main ocean basins. Exchanges between these oceans have a powerful control on mean global climate, and the transfer of chemical and biological material through the World's oceans.

Some of the strongest regional expressions of recent global climate change have come from Antarctica and the SO. These changes are having a strong impact on the pelagic ecosystem. Understanding the impacts of climate and anthropogenic forcings on SO processes is therefore integral to monitoring and forecasting the response of the Earth System to global change. The SO is a spatially and temporally variable system: for example, some regions are characterised by huge phytoplankton blooms supporting large populations of higher predators and substantial fisheries, whilst other regions are devoid of such blooms (largely due to iron limitation; a phenomenon known as the SO Paradox). This variability, together with the strong coupling of the atmosphere-ice-ocean systems, complicates interpreting signals of ecosystem response to climate change and harvesting.

The Southern Ocean and marine resources.

Relevance to marine resources. Despite recent efforts, large sectors of the SO remain poorly sampled and understood. As a result, we are not well positioned to respond to biodiversity issues or manage the economic consequences of a changing ocean on harvestable stocks. To resolve this, EUR-OCEANS will develop coordination within the international polar research community. This will facilitate development of models linking large-scale climate processes, local-scale ocean physics and anthropogenic forcing with biogeochemistry, food web dynamics and ecosystem structure. These models will be fundamental to European policy makers in the development of marine ecosystems conservation and management strategies.