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National and international agencies need assessments of change in ecosystems and their drivers in order to sustain natural systems, to maintain the delivery of services and to meet the challenge for conserving Earth ecosystems in the long term. In marine systems, change may arise directly from human activities (e.g. fisheries), indirectly from local or global activities (cascading effects through food webs from fisheries or changing environments from climate change and/or ocean acidification), or from naturally varying processes. A particular challenge for managers is to identify how dangerous future climate change will be for ecosystems and their services and whether mitigation or adaptation may be needed, in advance, in order to achieve the conservation requirements. For regions of international attention, particularly those that have the attention of many management or policy-oriented bodies, a standardized process is needed to harmonize the scientific information on the status and trends in ecosystems used by the different bodies. That process also needs to ensure the information is available in a timely manner. 

By example, assessments of change in habitats, species and/or food webs in the Southern Ocean are currently compiled separately for at least ten different international organizations or processes. A Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO) aims to harmonize that information for policy-makers. This assessment began with an international conference in April 2018 (, where it was agreed to undertake the first MEASO over 2018-2019 with the view to provide the outcomes to relevant bodies, such as the Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, soon after. 

In this Research Topic, we encourage articles developed under the following MEASO themes: (i) Context, including changing global and local drivers of change in Southern Ocean ecosystems; (ii) Status and trends of marine biota in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, including details of their critical limits and relationships (attribution of change) to key drivers, such as habitats; (iii) Spatial differentiation and trends in Southern Ocean food webs, (iv) Challenges for policy makers, including ecosystem services, changing habitats and coastal and shelf systems, and sentinels of change, (v) Lessons, methods, gaps, and future priorities from MEASO-1 and other environmental assessments, and (vi) Foundations and extensions of MEASO.

Our objective is to encourage Original Research, Reviews and Policy Briefs within each of the six themes. These synthesis papers should cover the breadth of current scientific views, the strength of evidence and degree of confidence (IPCC-style) around those views, identify the priority gaps for reducing uncertainty, and consolidate key conclusions for policy makers. Contributions synthesizing socio-ecological perspectives on change in the region are welcome. Specific case studies may be developed in the sixth theme, but should take a circumpolar view on one or more habitats/species or a whole-of-system view within one or more MEASO assessment areas ( Single species assessments within a confined area will not be accepted.

Keywords: Antarctica, CCAMLR, CEP, Polar ecosystems, Risk, Fisheries, MPA, State of the Environment

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Topic Editors

Andrew Constable (Australian Antarctic Division, Hobart, Australia)

Jess Melbourne-Thomas (CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Australia)

Mônica Muelbert (11Instituto do Mar, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Santos, Brazil)

Anne Hollowed (NOAA Alaskan Fisheries Science Center, Seattle, USA)

Participating Journals 

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (Conservation), Frontiers in Environmental Science (Conservation) and Frontiers in Marine Science (Global Change and the Future Ocean). 

Submission Deadlines

16 November 2019Abstracts for contributed papers
19 June 2020see timeline

Current paper structure

A number of core papers have been identified for developing into papers in the special issue.  If you wish to contribute to a paper, please send an email to with your request and it will be forwarded on to the respective lead authors.  If you wish to contribute a paper to Section 5 or 6, this can be done through the Frontiers page (above) or by sending the title, authors and extended abstract as a proposal to Please note that we encourage diversity (gender, region, experience) in the authorship of papers. 

Section 1. Context

1-1: Marine Ecosystem Assessments and the Southern Ocean

1-2: Southern Ocean ecosystems as part of the global system

1-3: Biological data and their availability for a marine ecosystem assessment for the Southern Ocean

1-4: Global drivers on Southern Ocean ecosystems: changing physical environments in an Earth system

1-5: Local drivers on Southern Ocean ecosystems: human activities, policy implications and strategies

Section 2. Biota

2-1: Changing biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean and its ecosystem implications

2-2: Responses of Southern Ocean seafloor habitats and communities to global environmental changes

2-3: Evidence for the impact of climate change on primary producers in the Southern Ocean

2-4: Status, change and futures of zooplankton and krill in the Southern Ocean

2-5: Productivity and change in fish and squid in the Southern Ocean

2-6: Top predators in the Southern Ocean

2-7: Southern Ocean food webs: prognoses, future priorities and opportunities for policy makers

Section 3. Syntheses: Challenges for policy makers

3-1: What will happen to Southern Ocean ecosystem services in the 21st century?

3-2: Changing distributions of habitats in the Southern Ocean: implications for science and management

3-3: Southern Ocean Sentinels: sustained observing of ecosystem change

3-4: What is expected for coastal and shelf ecosystems and their role in the Southern Ocean by 2100?

Section 4. Lessons on ecosystem assessments

4-1: Approaches for future Marine Ecosystem Assessments for the Southern Ocean: lessons from global assessments

4-2: Lessons for adapting to climate futures in Antarctica from projected climate change impacts on European Union and Bering Sea fish and fisheries

Section 5. Foundations and Extensions of MEASO

Interaction of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current with seamounts fuels moderate blooms but vast foraging grounds for multiple marine predators (

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