The Department of Environmental Affairs’ SA Agulhas II embarked on her third logistical and scientific voyage to Marion Island on Thursday.
“Aboard the ship is a host of researchers and participants from Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Public Works, the South African Weather Service and various tertiary institutions,” Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said.
He said the Marion 72 expedition team will be the fourth of its kind to inhabit the new base since its commission in March 2011 and will occupy it for a period of 14 months.
During the voyage, scientists from the Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts Research Unit as well as from various universities in South Africa will jointly continue to monitor oceanographic processes, both physical and chemical changes in planktic and benthic communities.
They will also monitor the population estimates and assessments of feeding and breeding behaviours of top predators in the Southern Ocean and at the Prince Edward Islands, where marine and terrestrial biological communities have shown responses to climate change.
“Despite ongoing research and monitoring efforts, the Southern Ocean is still regarded as a comparatively data-poor area and it is therefore important that South Africa, being a party member to the Antarctic Treaty and Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, carries out its responsibility over its territory and surrounding high seas within the Southern Ocean,” Nqayi said.
Director of Southern Oceans and Antarctic Support, Nishendra Devanunthan, said one of the most serious threats to the conservation of the Island has been the introduction of alien species in the form of plants and invertebrates.
“The department is making every effort to avoid introducing new species to the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, and it requires the cooperation of all participants in order to succeed.
“As a result the department will be sending a specialist from the Environmental Programmes branch that will focus on the Alien Eradication Programme to evaluate ways and means to restore the island to its pristine state said,” Devanunthan said.
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