CHESSO - Chemosynthetically-drive ecosystems south of the Polar Front


Start/End: April 2008 to March 2013
Project Leader: Professor Nicolas Polunin
Sponsors: NERC
Partners: National Oceanography Centre (Southampton, UK), Bristol University, British Antarctic Survey, University of Oxford


CHESSO is investigating the chemosynthetic environments and associated ecosystems south of the Polar Front. Sites in the East Scotia Sea (East Scotia Ridge, South Sandwich Arc and forearc) will be compared with chemosynthetically-driven communities in the Bransfield Strait, and north of King George Island, Antarctica. The primary objective of this work is to evaluate whether these sites, collectively, represent a Southern Ocean “gateway” to enable gene-flow of chemosynthetic fauna from the Southern Pacific Ocean to the South Atlantic Ocean. To address this issue the consortium of PIs will collectively conduct a detailed investigation and analysis of four contrasting types of chemosynthetically-driven communities, together with their regional tectonic setting, and the specific hydrothermal vent and cold seep environments they inhabit. Our role in the Chesso consortium is to elucidate food-web structures using state of the art techniques of stable isotope and lipid analyses, and compare these chemosynthetic-community types and locations both within the chosen region and outside it.


Professor Nick Polunin
Professor of Marine Environmental Science

Dr Chris Sweeting
Research Associate