The Antarctic marine ecosystem—the assemblage of plants, animals, ocean, sea ice, and island components south of the Antarctic Convergence—is among the largest readily defined ecosystems on Earth (36 x 106 km2) (Hedgpeth, 1977; Petit et aI., 1991). This ecosystem is composed of an interconnected system of functionally distinct hydrographic and biogeochemical subdivisions (Treguer and Jacques, 1992) and includes open ocean, frontal regions, shelf-slope waters, sea ice, and marginal ice zones. Oceanic, atmospheric, and biogeochemical processes within this system are thought to be globally significant, have been infrequently studied, and are poorly understood relative to more accessible marine ecosystems (Harris and Stonehouse, 1991; Johannessen et al., 1994). The Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (Palmer LTER) area west of the Antarctic Peninsula (Fig. la) is a complex combination of a coastal/continental shelf zone and a seasonal sea ice zone, because this area is swept by the yearly advance and retreat of sea ice. The Palmer LTER program is a multidisciplinary program established to study this polar marine ecosystem.