A68a is the largest iceberg globally, and it is about to collide with South Georgia, one of the BOT or British Overseas Territories.
Danger to the ecosystem
This iceberg may anchor and ground to the wildlife-rich island and may become a threat to the local seals and penguins. Their foraging routes may get blocked and prevent them from being able to feed their offspring properly.
A severe disturbance in the ecosystem below the water at the bottom as the creature gets crushed by A68a.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
M/S World Explorer at Iceberg A-68a with a spy-hopping Humpback Whale in the Weddell Sea (Wikimedia Commons). A68a is the largest iceberg in the world, and it is about to collide with South Georgia, one of the BOT or British Overseas Territories.
The damage will be hard to reverse
According to the BAS or British Atlantic Survey’s professor Geraint Tarling, the iceberg can remain stuck once it is anchored there for a decade.
He says it can severely affect both the economy, particularly the fisheries industry, and South Georgia’s ecosystem.
The island British Overseas Territory could be considered the graveyard of many of the largest icebergs in Antarctica. These icebergs are drawn up by strong currents and travel on the “iceberg alley,” and then catch on to the shallower areas of the continental shelf surrounding the island.
A68a has been traversing this iceberg alley when it broke off from the Antarctic last 2017. Now, it is a mere few hundred kilometers away from the BOT’s southwest portion.
A68a has a tonnage reaching hundreds of billions. However, it is relatively thin, with only a submerged portion of 200 meters or less. This makes it able to drift to the coast of South Georgia and possibly anchor there.
According to Tarling, this will affect the foraging of terrestrial-based animal predators. Worse, it will come at a time when penguins and seals do chick and pup rearing.
If the iceberg shuts off the animals, they will need to make a long detour to obtain needed krill and fish to feed themselves and their young. This may be crucial for the survival of their offspring.
The collision of the A38 iceberg
In 2004, the huge A38 iceberg collided with South Georgia, causing the death of countless numbers of offspring of penguins and seals whose habitats lay on the beaches.
This could be repeated if A68a collides and grounds.
Grounding on one of the island’s key wildlife habitats and the fisheries industry in the area can be devastating.
However, there are also positive effects. For instance, the icebergs can bring a lot of dust that can fertilize plankton. This will increase plankton numbers fed upon by a wide range of animals in the area. This will have positive effects on the entire food web.
The economy also needs this plankton.
Nonetheless, according to Dr. Peter Fretwell, a mapping and remote-sensing specialist of BAS, satellite data suggest that the iceberg may yet avoid grounding. He says that anything can still be possible. He reiterates that they even cannot tell what is going to happen.
According to Dr. Andrew Fleming of BAS, if the iceberg spins around the South Georgia island and travels northward, it will probably break up, and the warmer waters and waves may eventually disintegrate it completely.
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