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Antarctic Landfast Sea Ice: A Review of Its Physics, Biogeochemistry and Ecology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-18, 23:57 authored by Alexander FraserAlexander Fraser, Pat WongpanPat Wongpan, PJ Langhorne, AR Klekociuk, K Kusahara, D Lannuzel, RA Massom, Klaus MeinersKlaus Meiners, Kerrie SwadlingKerrie Swadling, DP Atwater, GM Brett, Matthew CorkillMatthew Corkill, LA Dalman, Sonya FiddesSonya Fiddes, A Granata, L Guglielmo, P Heil, GH Leonard, AR Mahoney, Andrew McMinnAndrew McMinn, P Merwe, Christine Weldrick, B Wienecke
Antarctic landfast sea ice (fast ice) is stationary sea ice that is attached to the coast, grounded icebergs, ice shelves, or other protrusions on the continental shelf. Fast ice forms in narrow (generally up to 200 km wide) bands, and ranges in thickness from centimeters to tens of meters. In most regions, it forms in autumn, persists through the winter and melts in spring/summer, but can remain throughout the summer in particular locations, becoming multi-year ice. Despite its relatively limited extent (comprising between about 4% and 13% of overall sea ice), its presence, variability and seasonality are drivers of a wide range of physical, biological and biogeochemical processes, with both local and far-ranging ramifications for the Earth system. Antarctic fast ice has, until quite recently, been overlooked in studies, likely due to insufficient knowledge of its distribution, leading to its reputation as a “missing piece of the Antarctic puzzle.” This review presents a synthesis of current knowledge of the physical, biogeochemical and biological aspects of fast ice, based on the sub-domains of: fast ice growth, properties and seasonality; remote-sensing and distribution; interactions with the atmosphere and the ocean; biogeochemical interactions; its role in primary production; and fast ice as a habitat for grazers. Finally, we consider the potential state of Antarctic fast ice at the end of the 21st Century, underpinned by Coupled Model Intercomparison Project model projections. This review also gives recommendations for targeted future work to increase our understanding of this critically-important element of the global cryosphere.


Publication title

Reviews of Geophysics










Australian Antarctic Program Partnership, Ecology and Biodiversity, IMAS Directorate, Oceans and Cryosphere


American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Publication status

  • Published

Rights statement

© 2023 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

14 Life Below Water

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