The Research Center Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) is a multidisciplinary, synergetic and highly integrated center
Our main goal is to measure and understand the impacts of environmental stressors caused by global change, on the productivity of the marine ecosystems in the Antarctic and Subantarctic Regions, and the implications for the communities that depend on them. We hope this knowledge will contribute to solve environmental, social and economic problems of Chile.
To promote associative research programs with national and international institutions.
To strengthen the capacity on Antarctic and Subantarctic research through capacity building at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels.
To inform the decision makers and the general public, on the importance of the Antarctic and Subantarctic marine ecosystems, their vulnerability, threats and needs of environmental protection.
To consolidate ourselves as a research center in marine ecosystems and coastline of high latitudes with international recognition, to position Punta Arenas and Chile as regional leaders in Antarctic and Subantarctic investigation.
30 million years ago, the Southern Patagonia of Chile was attached to the Antarctic Peninsula. When the continents separated, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current was formed (ACC). It is believed that this current is a natural barrier that prevents the exchange of biota (plankton and benthos) between the two regions, while large mammals and birds, use the ecosystem resources and services of both.
The IDEAL Center will study the connection that exists between the plankton and benthos organisms of both zones, that evolved separately after 30 millions years when the Drake Passage was opened. These experimental studies will be complemented with a model of the oceanic circulation for the area, to assess the role of the currents as a transport route if it connects – or not, these two regions.
The warm and humid maritime climate of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula, has migrated to the south, displacing the former cold and dry climate of the Antarctic Continent. This has caused responses of the marine ecosystems at different levels. Due to its physiological limitations, it is expected that the species change their present area of distribution, to maintain a relatively similar thermal niche. These changes can also allow the establishment of new species, for example, those that inhabit the southern part of Chile in the South Shetland Islands.
Global change involves diverse modifications in the marine environment, in addition to the increase of the average temperature of the sea, among which are emphasized:
an increase of the oceanic acidification, product of an increase in the atmospheric pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) in the sea; the decrease of the salinity, due to the increase of fresh water contributions into the system ( phenomenon known as `freshening‘) as a result of melting glaciers; the decrease of the ozone concentration with the concomitant increase of UV-B radiation; the increase of episodes of hypoxia, product of the stratification of the sea surface layer associated to events of freshening; and in the Antarctic regions, a decrease in the sea-ice cover.
The IDEAL Center will focus its investigation in the possible effects and changes in marine systems as a product of the organism responses to climate shifts, the communities that they conform and trophic web in which they participate, to the disturbances generated by global change.
70% of the world-wide population lives in coastal zones, therefore, what happens in the marine ecosystems also affects the human populations that live on them. Hence, the importance of addressing the human dimension of the Antarctic and Subantarctic ecosystems, because global change will also affect the social environment.
The IDEAL Center studies how the impacts of global change affect the ecosystem services of the Magallanes Region and the Antarctic Peninsula, such as fishing, aquaculture, tourism and recreation, among others. The repercussions in the livelihoods and wellbeing of the local and national communities will also be studied.