Mers Australes - Une mission scientifique en antartique


The Census of Antartic Marine Life

The International Polar Year and the CAML

Within the framework of the Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica (EBA) program, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) suggested that a coordinated international focus on marine life in Antarctica, the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), should be a priority during the International Polar Year (2007-2009). Financial support by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has allowed the coordination committee of CAML to set up a scientific program and to coordinate the project.

The CAML aims to emphasize actions on the study of southern oceans surrounding ice fields, before and during the International Polar Year. The main objective is to integrate current knowledge (for example, using existing collections) into predefined research programs which will deal with diverse areas, organisms, habitats and themes. Active transmission to the public also represents a priority.
Within the CAML research programs, projects focusing on biodiversity of Antarctic ecosystems are based on understanding the function of the biological systems, with a link to their physical environment.  To reach this objective, organisms must be studied in the frame of their evolutionary history, their relatedness, and the course of their adaptation to environmental conditions.
This approach will permit to yield data on the composition of ecosystems, depending on the different types of past and present habitats. In the future, the main research focus will be the concept of “functional biodiversity”, that is, how a living organism is able to survive in extreme environmental conditions of Antarctica, or how it will survive to local or global climatic changes.

It is important to define the role played by the ecosystems that surround the Antarctic continent, as well as estimating their benefits for Mankind. It is also necessary to appraise how these ecosystems are affected by the climate and how they could be affected by global warming. The main issues and the specific projects are defined and coordinated by the scientific committee of CAML,  and rely on the availability of the polar ships provided by the countries involved in Antarctic research programs.
Ice shelf in fragmentation at the beginning of summer. At the rear: tabular icebergs.


Ice shelf in fragmentation at the beginning of summer. At the rear: tabular icebergs.

© Catherine Ozouf-Costaz

Adelie penguins on an ice pack,  ahead of an iceberg

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Adelie penguins on an ice pack, ahead of an iceberg

© Catherine Ozouf-Costaz

Common protocols permit exchange and sharing of the collected data

The scientific research teams of CAML have committed themselves to perform sampling procedures using commonly defined protocols, so that the interpretation and analysis methods of raw data could be uniform. This concerns the collecting means as well as undersea observations or data management. The data management protocols of the CAML have been developed by the SCAR-Marine Biodiversity Information Network (SCAR-MarBIN). Pooling all these informations in international databases will optimize their availability, which offers possibilities for cross researches from various sources.
Benthic assembly dominated by filtering species


Benthic assembly dominated by filtering species

At the front can be observed acidians, then five huge sponges to which grab some comatulids © AWI, Gutt 1998

<i>Trematomus nicolai</i>


Trematomus nicolai

Antifreeze-producing Teleost fish of the Nototheniid family
© Erwan Leguilloux

<i>Cygnodraco mawsoni</i>

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Cygnodraco mawsoni

Antifreeze-producing Teleost fish of the Bathydraconid family © Marino Vacchi

<i>Chionodraco hamatus</i>

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Chionodraco hamatus

Antifreeze-producing Teleost fish of the Channichthyid family, hemoglobin-free species © Marino Vacchi

<i>Psilodraco breviceps</i>

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Psilodraco breviceps

Antifreeze-producing Teleost fish of the Bathydraconid family, a species rarely caught © Marino Vacchi