IMCONet - Interdisciplinary Modelling of Climate Change in Coastal Western Antarctica – Network for Staff Exchange and Training

Both Polar Regions are strongly influenced by climate change. In Western Antarctica and in the Arctic air temperature rise triples the global average, and maritime glaciers in both regions are rapidly retreating. The severity of the consequences for the West Antarctic coastal ecosystems is still largely unclear because long-term observations in Polar Regions are extremely difficult and, therefore, scarce or non-existent. Thus, baseline data sets describing the state of these systems before the anthropogenic impacts started to affect global climate are hardly available. 

In IMCONet we benefit from 20 years of ecosystem investigations in the model area Potter Cove, a fjord-like inlet on the south coast of King-George Island (South Shetland Archipelago). Coordinated interdisciplinary investigations of the changes in Potter Cove involving glaciologist, geologists, biogeochemists and biologists were implemented  during the IPY 2006-08 and  continued in the PolarCLIMATE programme ESF-IMCOAST (April 2010 - March 2013, These international activities between Argentinean, Brazilian and European scientists generated and joined data sets for different ecosystem compartments (glaciers, coastal run-off and sediment biogeochemistry, pelagic and benthic coastal systems) from field research to describe the spatial and temporal patterns (sediment cores) of ecosystem change.

Project Objectives

IMCONet will leverage on existing activities and long-term programs and spatially extend the target region. IMCOAST has established connections to Palmer LTER and Rothera scientists and leaders of the long-term measurement programs (Ducklow, US and Meredith, UK) with the aim of creating a WAP network of climate change relevant observatories in the marine environment. This networking activity will foster exchange of scientists between home laboratories and focus on

  • Usage of resulting complex data sets in ecosystem partial models (e.g. glacier mass balance models (WP1), pelagic and benthic ecosystem models (other WPs 2, 4, 5). A detailed understanding of long-term recorded processes will lead to a high resolution local environmental model that can be nested into global climate models to analyze changes on a time axis that enables predictions of future scenarios (WP1 and 5).
  • Integrate in-situ observations, satellite-based measurements and novel inventory data with modern modeling techniques, current estimates and predictions to update and validated WAP contributions to global sea level rise
  • Improve understanding of the sensitivity of Peninsula glaciers to climate change to gain insights into the future behavior of similar glacial systems in high latitudes, such as the Gulf of Alaska and Patagonia or the Canadian Arctic archipelago and Svalbard.
  • Fill “IMCOAST-gaps” in dealing with microbial communities in sea and soil and with anthropogenic impact in coastal West Antarctica in WP3 and initiating work on phytoplankton interactions and secondary metabolites, particularly toxins, in Western Antarctica in WP2.
  • Validate biogeochemical tracers and animal models from these rapidly warming coastal environments as applicable proxies for monitoring of ongoing changes in regions elsewhere on WAP (WP2/WP4).
  • Cooperate and share the analysis of three different marine core repositories (at AWI, NERC-BAS, US) from the KGI area that were previously never combined (WP5).
  • Create and validate GIS-based (GIS: Geographic Information System) and food web models to predict ecosystem spatial and temporal dynamics in the face of climate change (WP6).
  • Strengthen exchange of scientific expertise and modeling approaches with southern WAP stations (Palmer, US and Rothera, UK) for an understanding of large-scale dynamics of glacial retreat and surface warming in West Antarctica (WPs 1,2,5,6).

IMCONet will conduct a series of workshops/training courses for transfer of knowledge in different fields of expertise for early stage and senior researchers. These will be (limited but) opened to local faculty students. Workshops comprise technical and biological issues, such as toxin analysis with gas chromatography and courses in taxonomy of Antarctic zooplankton, as well as course on explicit GIS-based or community dynamics numerical modeling. Training will be conducted by partners and by specifically invited local experts.

WP0: Coordination

Doris Abele and Nancy Lange (AWI)


WP1: Glaciology

Matthias Braun (FAU)


WP2: Plankton Community Change

Irene Schloss (IAA and ISMER)

Bernd Krock (AWI)


WP3: Microbiology

Walter McCormack (IAA)


WP4: Benthic Community Change

Ann Vanreusel (UGhent)

Ricardo Sahade (CONICET)


WP5: Geology

Gerhard Kuhn (AWI)

Jorge Adrián Strelin (IAA)


WP6: Ecosystem Modelling

Fernando Momo (UNGS)

Kerstin Jerosch (AWI)