In order to study how global climate change is impacting the seas of the Chilean Patagonia, scientists took measurements from the Strait of Magellan to the Beagle Channel. In total, data were collected over 460 kilometers.
Andrea Navarro, IDEAL Center. “The balance is positive. The data obtained in this scientific campaign will allow us to understand how global change is affecting marine systems and the organisms that inhabit the sub-Antarctic zone”. With these words, Dr. Erasmo Macaya Horta, head of the campaign, summed up the third scientific expedition of the Research Center Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL), Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh).
Researchers, research assistants, and students from the Universidad de Concepción (UDEC), the Center for Research in Patagonia Ecosystems (CIEP), and the Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG) all participated in the study, which encompassed the Strait of Magellan, the southern fjords, and the Beagle Channel.
The main objective of the campaign was to measure the impact of global climate change on the Southern Ocean and to continue the research carried out by the IDEAL Center in the Magallanes Region and the Chilean Antarctic. To this end, the researchers conducted a variety of samplings in the Yendegaia Bay sector. These samples were taken over the course of nine days, while covering more than 1000 kilometers onboard the vessel, Forrest.
During the expedition, the research group focused on studying how Macrocystis pyrifera forests (locally known as huiros) are affected by the freshwater and sediments discharged via the natural environmental gradient that occurs at the mouth of the Yendegaia River, where matter is dragged from the Stopanni and Bower glaciers into the Beagle Channel.
The IDEAL Center’s survey of oceanographic information is one of the first carried out in the Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctic. Only a few studies have reported on the conditions of the southernmost seas in winter.
The researchers sampled the surface water and gathered data on the oceanographic parameters of the water column from the Strait of Magellan to the Beagle Channel.
“On this occasion, unlike last year, samples were taken from both the northwest and (for the first time) the southwest arms of the Beagle Channel. It was an excellent opportunity to explain why the entire column is mixed when the two arms meet, which occurs due to the narrowing of the southwestern arm,” stated Dr. José Garcés.
Data were collected from 25 oceanographic stations spaced out along >460 kilometers, or the distance between Punta Arenas, Chile, and El Calafate, Argentina.
Finally, the scientists maintained and retrieved various oceanographic sensors; data were also collected from a sediment trap. These instruments were submerged off Yendegaia Bay for one year. The researchers will use these data to determine seasonal patterns for the most important oceanographic variables and to measure the vertical flow of particles in the water column.