Antarctic future on thin ice

Antarctic future on thin ice
Ari Friedlaender’s passion for the southernmost oceans

Whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on the
planet; they’re the ultimate ocean predators; and they represent
the health of oceans,” says Ari Friedlaender. “Where you
find whales, you find healthy ocean ecosystems that can support
a lot of life.”

Friedlaender is an ecologist in OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute whose research in the foraging behavior of whales and their
prey has taken him to all the oceans on Earth. But it’s the oceans
of Antarctica that Friedlaender is most passionate about.

“Antarctica does not exist for our needs and desires,” Friedlaender
writes in his book, Unframable, in which he shares the
beauty of Antarctica through the lens of his camera. “There is
heuristic value for this place to exist and persist without our fingerprints
scattered on it.”

And yet, his research documents the undeniable fingerprints
of climate change on the Antarctic, which he calls “the greatest
wilderness on our planet.” The waters around the Antarctic
Peninsula support vast amounts of krill and high densities
of krill predators, according to Friedlaender. Over the past fifty
years, this region has warmed at a faster rate than any other on
the planet, and the number of ice-free days during winter has
increased by nearly a month. This has rearranged the distribution
and abundance of krill, and whales.


Marine Ecologist Ari Friedlaender researches whales in Antarctica and how the changing climate is impacting their environment. (National Geographic video.)

Friedlaender offers a rare look at the disappearing world of
Antarctica’s whales in the new National Geographic show Continent
. “It is imperative that we understand the rapid climate
changes that are being observed,” he says, “and how they will
affect the relationships between sea ice, krill, whales, and the
other predators that call the Antarctic home.”
In our "Depth of Field," Friedlaender shares one of his photographs
of this Antarctic home and the whales that live there.

Published in: Ecosystems, Water