There is no doubt in calling the Polar Regions extreme, with below zero temperatures and organism having to deal with long periods of night and days of continuous sunlight. It was long thought to be a frozen waste land where no organisms could thrive (Thomas et al. 2002), but it is now known that nothing could be further from the case. As both above and below the water, life has found ways to live in conditions that to us seem beyond and evolved amazing adoptions to the extremes nature has forced upon them.

There are several different marine ecosystems in the Polar Regions, which differ widely. Examples of theses are brine channels (fig1) were a (micro) world of diatoms, protozoa and bacteria thrive in spaces that can be a few micrometers wide. Compared ecosystems well below the ice which can be seen as a kingdom of ‘giants’ when compared to their tropical and temperate cousins. With such species as the Antarctic sea spiders which be up to a hundred times great than there European equivalents (Thomas 2004).

Figure 1) A photograph in natural light showing elongated tubes that form as brine pockets trapped between the ice crystals. The image is 5 millimeters in width. Photo courtesy of Ted Maksym, United States Naval Academy. (Source: NSIDC)

The Polar Regions can be broken down into two different areas of the globe, the Arctic Ocean in the North and the Southern Ocean in the south. These two oceans just on appearances seem to be quite similar, but in reality they are completely different from one another.The Arctic region consists of a land locked ocean, which is covered in pack ice which is 50 – 90% (Horner et al. 1992) multi-year ice. A common characteristic that is seen in the Arctic are melt pools, these are more widely seen here due to the main process of melting in the arctic is at the air to sea interface (Horner et al.1992). Whereas the Antarctic region in comparison is a land mass which covered by 2 different ice sheets, being completely cut off from any other land mass due to the Southern Ocean acting as a barrier (Thomas 2008).

Leave a Reply