2. Background

Planning for a GLOBEC-related programme in the Southern Ocean has been ongoing at various levels for about three years. This section provides a brief review of the various meetings and workshops that preceded the workshop held in June 1993.

In May 1991, a workshop was held in La Jolla, CA, with sponsorship from the U.S. GLOBEC programme, which brought together about 40 scientists from 10 countries. The general objective of this workshop was to discuss the important scientific issues that would lead to the development of a GLOBEC-related study in the Southern Ocean. The results of this workshop are published in U.S. GLOBEC Report No. 5.

The discussions at the La Jolla workshop highlighted the importance of the annual formation and retreat of pack ice in influencing the structure and function of the Antarctic marine food web. Observations that include the austral winter and extend over several ice cycles were given high priority as components of a Southern Ocean GLOBEC programme. In particular, observations are needed for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) and the salp (Salpa thompsoni), which were identified at the workshop as key target fish species (e.g. Champsocephalus gunnari), a non-harvested holopelagic fish species (e.g. Pleurogramma antarctica) and a non-harvested nearshore fish species (e.g. Notothenia neglecta). The workshop discussions also focused attention on the importance of top predators in the Antarctic marine ecosystem. Hence, several penguin species (e.g. Adelie and Chinstrap penguins), the crab eater seal, and the Antarctic fur seal were recognized to be important and recommendations were made to include these as key species. Benthic communities were also considered to be an important component of an Antarctic GLOBEC programme and recommendations were made to include as target species bivalves, echinoderms and crustaceans that have both pelagic and benthic larval stages.

Considerable attention was given during the workshop to the selection of sites for a Southern Ocean GLOBEC programme. Characteristics that were considered to be important for potential sites included the existence of identifiable populations of the key target species, reliable sea-ice cover and accessibility by ships and from shore-based laboratories. One region that meets these criteria is the area that extends west of the Antarctic Peninsula to the eastern portion of the Bellingshausen Sea. Other areas that were also discussed as potential sites were the southeastern Weddell Sea, the northern part of the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean, the Ross Sea, and the Indian Ocean.

The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) decided at its 30th Executive Committee Meeting in November 1991 to launch GLOBEC as an international programme and to establish a Scientific Steering Committee (SSC). SCOR also invited IOC to co-sponsor this as a joint activity and decided to investigate the interest of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to become a co-sponsor. In March 1992, the IOC Executive Council accepted this invitation to co-sponsor International GLOBEC. Later both ICES and its Pacific counterpart (PICES) accepted co-sponsorship of the programme. The SSC held its first meeting in Ravello, Italy on March 31-April 2, 1991 (GLOBEC Report No. 1). The Southern Ocean was then identified as a research site and the formation of a planning group to oversee the development of an international GLOBEC programme in this region was recommended.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) decided at its 22nd Meeting in June 1992 to co-sponsor the Southern Ocean component of the International GLOBEC and the development of a programme for this region was discussed with the SCAR/SCOR Group of Specialists on Southern Ocean Ecology (GOS-SOE) in September 1992. This group recommended that linkages be established with the Southern Ocean programme that was being developed as part of international GLOBEC. It was further recommended that these linkages be formalized by appointing a member(s) of the GOS-SOE to serve on the GLOBEC Southern Ocean planning group. It was felt that this would foster active participation by SCAR in a Southern Ocean GLOBEC programme.

The final activity that provided the basis for the Southern Ocean Planning Meeting that was held in June 1993, was the meeting of the international GLOBEC Working Group on Population Dynamics and Physical Variability, which took place in February 1993. The report from this workshop (GLOBEC Report No. 2) outlines the important conceptual, measurement and integration issues that must be part of any programme designed to understand and quantify marine animal population variability within the context of a variable physical environment. Many of the recommendations from this workshop provided a focal point for discussions at the Southern Ocean Planning Meeting. The report of the first meeting of the International GLOBEC Sampling and Observational Systems Working Group (SOS-WG), which took place in Paris on April 2, 1993 was not available at the Southern Ocean Planning Meeting.