Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.2 Life in the polar seas

Life in the polar sea ice forms part of a web of interactions, which Dr Mark Brandon discusses with Brett Westwood as he considers the tiny life trapped in the sea ice that is the foundation for the entire food chain at the poles.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: eco_1_openlearn_3_16_life_in_the_polar_seas.mp3
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Seawater freezes at −1.9° C, but because of the anomalous relationship between the density and temperature of water, ice floats, insulating the water underneath from the cold air above. Except in very shallow areas, the sea-ice does not extend to the sea-bed, even at the North Pole. Storms and currents sometimes break up the ice, creating many temporary, and some permanent, areas of open water even at high latitudes in mid-winter. Such turbulence also oxygenates the water and admits more light, making the environment much more hospitable to larger organisms.

The movements of ocean currents are complex and may change erratically from year to year. This often results in an upwelling of deep water rich in nutrients and promotes high primary productivity in the sea. In most arctic regions, the sea is both warmer and more productive than the land. So at high latitudes there are many more organisms in the sea than on land, at least during the brief summer, and, as in the case of the baleen and sperm whales, some are very large.

Krill

You heard previously how Dr Mark Brandon and colleagues studied krill under the sea ice. In this video scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are trawling for krill and sorting them for later analysis – some task!

As you watch listen out for answers to the following questions:

  • What is the role of krill in the Antarctic food chains?
  • How do the food chains in the polar seas compare with those introduced earlier by Professor David Streeter in the oak wood?
Download this video clip.Video player: eco_1_openlearn_3_17_krill.mp4
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371