Two researchers from the Research Center Dynamics of High Latitudes Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) embarked on the Korean icebreaker, Araon, to investigate the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean by studying the abundance of microorganisms on the surface of the southern seas.
For the first time, a team of Chilean scientists from the Research Center Dynamics of High Latitudes Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) belonging to the Universidad Austral de Chile, conducted oceanographic sampling from New Zealand to the Antarctic Peninsula.
Dr. José Luis Iriarte and Claudia Maturana, a Ph.D. student of Sciences at this university, embarked on the Korean icebreaker, Araon, at the end of March. This international expedition was led by the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI). One of the campaign’s objectives was to research biodiversity in the Southern Ocean by studying the abundance of microorganisms in the water column and on the seabed.
For this, the researchers collected water samples from southern New Zealand to the Bransfield Strait in the Antarctic Peninsula.
“We started sampling every 12 hours, but as we got closer to the Antarctic Peninsula, we sampled more frequently given the importance of this region. In this transoceanic transect, the water temperature varied from 12 to 1 degree Celsius,” explains Maturana.
“As a result of the effects of global warming, such as increased temperatures and dissolved carbon in seawater, the dominance of microbes is expected to change in the future. Therefore, one of the questions that we seek to answer is: What types of microorganisms exist in the Southern Ocean? In addition, [we will] count them and determine what role they are playing there,” says Dr. Iriarte.
Upon reaching the Antarctic Peninsula, and with the purpose of studying microbial diversity, the researchers collected water samples from three different polar environments: iceberg, ice, and the ocean surface. The campaign was carried out at the beginning of winter, when ice formation on the surface of the ocean is at its peak.
“We detected different colorations in the ice sheets, meaning that there are microorganisms associated with the [ice sheet] formation times. Based on this, we want to know which mocrobial life forms live in these extreme environments with very low temperature and low light,” says Dr. Iriarte.
The first results of the IDEAL Center’s collaborative research, which are part of the “Champ 2050” project of the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), will be announced in 2019.