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Antarctica -- Research


Antarctica is a central driver of the Earth’s climate and health. The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica serves as a major sink for anthropogenic CO2 and heat (1), and the loss of Antarctic ice sheets contributes significantly to sea level rise and will continue to do so as the loss of ice sheets accelerates, with sufficient water stores to raise sea levels by 58 m (2). Antarctica's marine environment is home to a number of iconic species, and the terrestrial realm harbors a remarkable oasis for life, much of which has yet to be discovered (3). Distinctive oceanographic features of the Southern Ocean—including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the Antarctic Polar Front, and exceptional depths surrounding the continent—coupled with chronically cold temperatures have fostered the evolution of a vast number of uniquely coldadapted species, many of which are found nowhere else on the Earth (4). The Antarctic marine biota, for example, displays the highest level of species endemism on the Earth (5). However, warming, ocean acidification, pollution, and commercial exploitation threaten the integrity of Antarctic ecosystems (6). Understanding changes in the biota and its capacities for adaptation is imperative for establishing effective policies for mitigating the impacts of climate change and sustaining the Antarctic ecosystems that are vital to global health.


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