Emerging biological archives can reveal ecological and climatic change in Antarctica

Publication Name

Global Change Biology


Anthropogenic climate change is causing observable changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean including increased air and ocean temperatures, glacial melt leading to sea-level rise and a reduction in salinity, and changes to freshwater water availability on land. These changes impact local Antarctic ecosystems and the Earth's climate system. The Antarctic has experienced significant past environmental change, including cycles of glaciation over the Quaternary Period (the past ~2.6 million years). Understanding Antarctica's paleoecosystems, and the corresponding paleoenvironments and climates that have shaped them, provides insight into present day ecosystem change, and importantly, helps constrain model projections of future change. Biological archives such as extant moss beds and peat profiles, biological proxies in lake and marine sediments, vertebrate animal colonies, and extant terrestrial and benthic marine invertebrates, complement other Antarctic paleoclimate archives by recording the nature and rate of past ecological change, the paleoenvironmental drivers of that change, and constrain current ecosystem and climate models. These archives provide invaluable information about terrestrial ice-free areas, a key location for Antarctic biodiversity, and the continental margin which is important for understanding ice sheet dynamics. Recent significant advances in analytical techniques (e.g., genomics, biogeochemical analyses) have led to new applications and greater power in elucidating the environmental records contained within biological archives. Paleoecological and paleoclimate discoveries derived from biological archives, and integration with existing data from other paleoclimate data sources, will significantly expand our understanding of past, present, and future ecological change, alongside climate change, in a unique, globally significant region.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)