Geomorphologic controls on the age of particulate organic carbon from small mountainous and upland rivers
The continental shelf of the Ross Sea is one of the Antarctic's most intensively studied regions. We review the available data on the region's physical characteristics (currents and ice concentrations) and their spatial variations, as well as components of the neritic food web, including lower and middle levels (phytoplankton, zooplankton, krill, fishes), the upper trophic levels (seals, penguins, pelagic birds, whales) and benthic fauna. A hypothetical food web is presented. Biotic interactions, such as the role of Euphausia crystallorophias and Pleuragramma antarcticum as grazers of lower levels and food for higher trophic levels, are suggested as being critical. The neritic food web contrasts dramatically with others in the Antarctic that appear to be structured around the keystone species Euphausia superba. Similarly, we suggest that benthic-pelagic coupling is stronger in the Ross Sea than in most other Antarctic regions. We also highlight many of the unknowns within the food web, and discuss the impacts of a changing Ross Sea habitat on the ecosystem.