For the first time, the two countries join in an oceanograpic campaign to study the effects of climate change in the southernmost waters of the South American continent.
Andrea Navarro, IDEAL Center. The Beagle Channel, located at the southern tip of South America, is considered a strategic area for both Chile and Argentina. It is also an area of considerable scientific interest. In addition to connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, it is influenced by the Antarctic Circumpolar and Cape Horn currents, and is home to a great degree of marine biodiversity.
For the first time in history, both countries have united through a matter of mutual scientific interest. From the port of Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina), a team of 17 researchers, students, and technicians from Chilean and Argentine institutions sailed aboard the vessel “Víctor Angelescu”. The binational oceanographic campaign intends to study the effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia (oxygen depletion) on the ocean water column. Both phenomena are believed to be closely related to climate change.
This expedition was first planned more than two years ago under the Argentina – Chile Bilateral Committee for Southern Marine Scientific Research Cooperation, following development of an agenda and recognition of the countries’ strategic convergence of common interests, promoted by the foreign affairs ministries of Chile and Argentina. These efforts are expected to strengthen scientific cooperation between the two countries.
The campaign is led by the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC), part of the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), and the Research Center – Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh). It also includes researchers from the National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP), the Copas-Sur Austral program at the University of Concepción (UdeC), and the Fisheries Development Institute (IFOP).
“The Beagle Channel is a natural laboratory and an area that is very vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Both nations share fishery resources and, therefore, this scientific survey represents a milestone that will allow the transfer of unpublished information to decision makers,” noted the director of the IDEAL Center, Dr. Humberto González. “This campaign has important scientific value because it will allow the study of these phenomena in the southernmost waters of the continent, and it also carries a great degree of political importance, particularly when we consider the sovereignty disputes that occurred in this region in the past, involving the relationships between the two countries,” noted Dr. Gustavo Ferreyra, the CADIC director.
This scientific mission will establish eight monitoring stations: six in transect and two fixed stations. These will finish monitoring on Saturday, November 15. The effort will be documented by a team from the audiovisual production company, “CONICET Documentary,” which will record the details of the expedition while on board.
The main objective of the campaign is to study the effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia (lack of oxygen) on the water column. Along the Beagle Channel, researchers will use a rosette, an oceanographic instrument that will allow them to take water samples at various depths. This will enable them to study the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the area.
Gathering this information will provide keys for describing and modeling the currents and movements of these water bodies, and will help to characterize sites with low oxygen concentrations. “We will research climate change in the Beagle Channel, using a high-tech vessel. We all know that carbon dioxide levels have increased to record levels in the atmosphere and that the oceans capture carbon dioxide through natural processes,” explained Dr. Mariano Diez, a CADIC researcher and head of the expedition. This will be pioneering work in the measurement of currents and transport of water bodies in the Beagle Channel,” concluded Dr. Ricardo Giesecke, head of the Chilean delegation.