After the installation of sensors in the Antarctic Peninsula, Chilean researchers obtained records which they can determine how climate change is affecting the marine ecosystems of the white continent.
Andrea Navarro, IDEAL Center. Has the temperature increased in the Southern Ocean? That is the main question that a team of Chilean divers and researchers seek to resolve after the installation of four sensors at a depth of ten meters near the Collins Glacier, located in Fildes Bay, Antarctic Peninsula.
Thanks to probes, called CTDs – oceanographic instruments that store various parameters, including temperature and salinity – a group of scientists from the Center for Dynamic Research in High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh), obtained records of daily, weekly and monthly variations in the Antarctic marine environment for the past three years.
Data analysis will provide key information on the conditions of the surface water in the area, considered highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“These sensors give us very fine-scale records in time terms. Every 30 minutes they are measuring various parameters. As they are found at a shallow depth, we can associate the results with biological variables that we sample each year, such as, for example, biodiversity and abundance of benthic organisms,” explains the researcher from the IDEAL Center, Dr. Luis Miguel Pardo.
The probes, of Icelandic origin, were installed for the first time in early 2017. Since then, and thanks to their tiny structures that allow them to be anchored in extreme places such as the white continent, each year researchers have extracted multiple data, and equipment has been able to be reprogrammed and submerged again to the Southern Ocean. As a result of these maneuvers, during the 56 Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ECA), organized by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACh), they managed to obtain a time series of 36 months.
Since CTDs were submerged year-round, scientists were also able to obtain records of winter environmental conditions, at a time in which there is usually no scientific research on the white continent due to difficult access.
“The record we have today is very detailed and allows us to have a global vision of the seasonal behavior of temperatures in Antarctica and how it can vary in a glacial gradient, that is, if we move away from glaciers. The information collected is crucial to understand the impacts of climate change on shallow benthic communities,” explains marine biologist and scientific diver, Ignacio Garrido.
The sensors were also permanently installed in the San Isidro Lighthouse area, in the Strait of Magellan. In this context, one of the preliminary observations of the research shows that temperatures in Antarctica during the year vary more than in the sub Antarctic zone.
While in the Strait of Magellan they fluctuate between 8 and 11ºC degrees, the measurements made indicate that in the Antarctic Peninsula they range between -2 and 2ºC.”Antarctic organisms are experiencing temperature variations. In this sense, the Southern Ocean is not an environment as homogeneous compared to other environments as previously thought,” concludes Dr. Pardo.