Research is especially relevant in a context of climate change, considering the increase in the melting of ice on the white continent.
Antarctica is a continent with great biological activity. Not only is there a wide network of larger organisms that interact with each other, but also the water in its different states plays a fundamental role in the ecosystems found in the southern territory.
However, there is no further information on the connection between the different states of this element that exist at the South Pole, considering the constant entry of fresh water into the Southern Ocean. The connectivity and influence of the masses of water on the white continent is a question that scientists from the Center for Dynamic Research in High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) are trying to elucidate.
Dr. Daniela Soto, a biochemist at the IDEAL Center, collected samples of snow, ice, lakes, streams and water from the intertidal sector of Fildes Bay during the Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ECA 59) in order to carry out a genetic analysis to identify diversity of microorganisms that grow in these systems and quantify the amount of nutrients relevant to the development of life.
“This study is quite pioneering in the area. It would mean a first approximation to be able to understand the biological connections that exist in Antarctica and that are a consequence of the constant melting that the continent is suffering. There are some records on nutrient flow from snowfields to the coast, but we don’t particularly have information on Bahía Fildes,” commented the IDEAL Center researcher. The research also ventures into the comparison between fresh and salt water sources in the same territory.
This study is especially relevant in a context of climate change, considering the increase in the melting of ice on the continent. “Our question is what will happen when all this mass of fresh water melts and enters the sea, or what will be dragged along with this phenomenon. These are questions that are open and we are addressing them from this perspective,” mentioned Dr. Soto.
“Due to these abrupt changes in the habitat, it is most probable that certain microorganisms benefit over others, after the contribution of nutrients that may come from the melting of ice and snow. However, the microorganisms that usually develop in the snow will probably disappear after the rapid melting of their environment,” commented the researcher.
After the collection of samples, a genetic analysis will be carried out in the laboratories of the Austral University of Chile in Valdivia, in charge of Dr. Iván Gómez, deputy director of the IDEAL Center and academic of the Institute of Marine and Limnological Sciences (ICML).