On-board observations in the Southern Ocean - © International Polar Foundation

in Scientific Projects

CAML: Assessing Antarctic Marine Biodiversity

Initiated in 2006, CAML is a 5-year project which aims to assess the nature, distribution and abundance of all living creatures in the Southern Ocean in order to establish a baseline of Antarctic marine biodiversity against which future change can reliably be compared to.

For the second year in a row, scientists and associates from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences took part during BELARE 2008-2009 in the Census for Antarctic marine Life (CAML). During BELARE 2008-2009, Alain De Broyer, Antoine Joris and Henri Robert (supported by the Fonds Léopold III) boarded the Ivan Papanin, a Russian ice-class cargo ship, in order to repeat the Top Predator census which had been done on board the same ship last year (BELARE 2007-2008) by René-Marie Lafontaine and Alain De Broyer.

For six weeks, data was collected during 234 half-hour periods in the open water and 210 half-hour periods in the sea ice. 51 species of birds, 5 species of whales, 6 species of dolphins and beaked whales, 3 species of seals and 1 specie of fur seal were observed and monitored qualitatively and quantitatively.

Observations are made with binoculars and telescopes. Every bird and mammal is recorded no matter how far away it is from the ship, and the GPS coordinates, meteorological conditions and time of day are noted at the beginning and end of each shift. A video descibing how data was collected by CAML members during BELARE 2007-2008 was published on the International Polar Foundation's science website, SciencePoles.

The two BELARE seasons have enabled scientists from CAML to cross the Southern Ocean and collect valuable data that will help better understand the distribution range and abundance of most species observed in a rarely visited region of the Antarctic.

In a near future, climate change may cause drastic perturbations to occur in the surrounding habitat of most species in the Southern Ocean. The CAML will allow future generations of scientists to assess, understand and, hopefully, limit the consequences of these perturbations.

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Picture: On-board observations in the Southern Ocean - © International Polar Foundation

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