Through a pioneering work methodology in Chile, a scientific team seeks to complement the existing information on the huiro, a species considered essential for the marine ecosystems of Patagonia.
During this week, a team of researchers and scientific divers, headed by the deputy director of the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh), Dr. Iván Gómez, carried out multiple works in the Strait of Magellan.
The group of professionals devoted themselves to the task of studying the characteristics of the macroalga Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly known as “huiro” or “sargassum,” considered one of the largest living beings on the planet, reaching up to 70 meters in height and being shelter and food for hundreds of marine organisms.
Laredo, Buque Quemado, San Gregorio, El Águila bay and Buzos bay were the five places where researchers made observations and extracted samples of M. Pyrifera forests —widely distributed in Patagonia— in order to gather information about their physiological characteristics (distribution, density, among other parameters) and its bio-optics, that is, its ability to absorb and reflect solar energy.
This last analysis, related to the use of remote sensing and satellite images, is considered a pioneering work methodology in the study of marine algae in our country. “One of the limitations of this type of study is being able to validate in situ some characteristics necessary to understand the information we receive from the satellites. To do this, we study the reflectance of the algal frond, which allows us to generate a specific radiation spectral signature that facilitates the verification of remote information,” commented Dr. Gómez.
“We are one of the first scientific groups that is carrying out this work in the country, with macroalgae and mainly oriented to M. pyrifera. With this we will gain relevant data on the photobiology of this species, which will complement the results that our research group has published in recent years,” added the researcher.
In addition to the collection of huiro samples, in charge of scientific divers Ignacio Garrido and Jaime Loaiza, the land considered a survey with a multispectral drone, monitored by the environmental and coastal management engineer, Dayane Osman.
The team leader stressed the importance of this type of study, which seeks to understand the physiological processes of the huiro, because “this species stands out for its resilience in adverse weather conditions, sustaining most of the benthic communities in the region and covering thousands of hectares of the subantarctic zone. Its presence is essential to maintain the biodiversity of marine systems and not only that; a part of this wealth is used by man for consumption, being a very important biological element for us.”
The research carried out by the team led by Dr. Gómez was highlighted by the delegation from the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, led by the head of the ministry, Dr. Andrés Couve, who was able to see in the field the work carried out in the Buzos Bay sector, inside “Parque del Estrecho,” 60 kilometers south of Punta Arenas.