328 pages, 373 illus
Underwritten by the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and over a dozen participating universities, this book and DVD show life in Antarctica through the scientific expeditions which the authors have taken part in. The text is accompanied by many surprising photographs illustrating both the spectacular Antarctic landscapes and the diverse fauna inhabiting the sea bed.
"Knowing our planet is essential to preserve it. Exploring the remaining virgin places is one of the greatest challenges for humanity. Antarctica is the last one, the most inhospitable and dangerous place to be discovered". These words are the beginning for the documentary by Jose A. Moya -titled, like the book, "Antarctica. Life at the limit"-, which sums up perfectly the intention of Ana Ramos when she started this project. The documentary and the book in tandem are essential to understand the effort of a group of experienced scientists with just a few financial resources but willing to get involved in an exceptional adventure.
Antarctica is known specially by ice, penguins, whales and krill, a little shrimp-like crustaceans. But the Antarctic ecosystem is set up on the basis of close link among all these elements, which constitutes the most interesting fact. Light and temperature have a strong influence on the whole and afford an excellent opportunity to understand how environmental processes are developed and how their changes can affect human being. Antarctica is the highest (with an average height of 2300 m., coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth. Antarctica is the only region in the planet that still can be considered virgin. It has fascinated lots of adventurers for more than two centuries, and also scientists for some decades, due to its diverse and original orography, geology, climate, flora and fauna, which oftenly only can be seen here.
This publication summarizes the documentary work of a large group of Spanish and other researchers studying taxonomy and biology of sea bed over several years, under the protection of Bentart projects and campaigns. It's a great satisfaction for all of them to bring to light their experience on those places, so contributing to increase the respect for this incomparable natural paradise, with a singular value and therefore deserving of being preserved, as unaltered as possible, for future generations.
The authors intend to immerse the reader on the knowledge of invertebrate fauna inhabiting sea bed of West Antarctica, the working area for Bentart project. The story dates back to 1986, when the project coordinator took part in the Antarctica-8611 campaign. but it was not until southern summer of 1994 that dreams of carrying out a spanish Antarctic campaing to study the benthos came true. The working area was focused on Bransfield Strait and Livingston and Deception Islands. This campaign was followed by three more in the years 1995, 2003 and 2006; the two last ones in the far-off and lonely Bellingshausen Sea. "Antarctica. Life at the limit" involves a great deal of effort made by the members of Bentart team to bring their main scientific achievements to the public.
The work is divided in three parts.
1.- In the first one, the promoter and coordinator tells in first person the project story, risky sometimes but always fascinating; next exploration story and first oceanographic studies in West Antarctica are set out, and also the main geographic and climatic features responsible of turning the southern ocean into a peculiar, dangerous and -for this reason maybe- attractive place.
2.- The second part describes the varied methodology used to collect samples and study them on board, and it provides a comprehensive view of the enormous work to be carried out by the scientists once they have left the ship and get immersed in the ordinary run of their laboratory again.
3.- Finally, the difficult task of summarizing and show the main taxonomic, faunal and ecological results from the campaigns in a style suitable for a reader not very familiarized with this subject is tackled. After an introduction on general characteristics of benthic communities in Antarctica, the most noteworthy features on fauna, organized depending on the three main benthic compartments: endobenthos, epibenthos and suprabenthos, with a special reference to fish, the ichthyofauna. are described.
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