Tomas Heran and Fernando Cornejo visit us to investigate the “Coral Copita de Huinay

Tomas Heran and Fernando Cornejo visit us to investigate the “Coral Copita de Huinay

On the 24th of July of this year Thomas Heran and Fernando Cornejo arrived at the scientific field station of San Ignacio del Huinay with the important mission of realizing scientific dives to investigate the reproductive period and life story of the cold-water “cup coral of Huinay” (Caryophyllia huinayensis).

Thomas is a young Chilean scientist who has been realizing his doctorate in the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany, leading a research project titled “Early life history of the cold-water coral, Caryophyllia huinayensis from Comau Fjord, Chile”.

C. huinayensis is a type of cold-water coral endemic to Chile. It is latitudinally distributed from 37°S to 50°S with a vertical distribution from 11 to 800 meters of depth. It is a little-known species whose life story and biology are still waiting to be discovered. Among conditions of low salinity and pH, extreme conditions for calcifying organisms, these individuals may be found in abundances greater than 2200 individuals per sq. meter. The principal threat to the corals, apart from the acidification of the oceans produced by climate change, is the stress created by sediments which come from natural processes as well as anthropogenic activities, like salmon farming.

In the beginning of last year, in the experiment laboratories of AWI, Thomas discovered an unpublished process which led him to reformulate his project. Examples of C. huinayensis (brought from Fjord Comau to Germany in 2014) presented among their tentacles some orange structures which moved. Through “time-lapse” methods, he could corroborate that these structures had moved of their own power and were expelled from the coral mouth to the water column.

By performing a series of experiments, he was able to demonstrate that these orange structures have ability to float up the water column during their first days. However, his discovery went even farther. Not only could he determine that the metamorphosis from a larva to a recruit (settled juvenile organism) occurred among the first 24 hours to 29 days after being liberated from the coral (process described in vitro), but his time-lapse photos also document the metamorphic processes that occurred in the early life of the coral.

What is happening in the fjord in comparison to the laboratory? This is the grand question which Thomas hopes to address in his second stage of research, and for which he came to Huinay. In the area he plans to realize field work in several stations (locations) throughout a year, with the goal of collecting corals, water samples, and zooplankton. These data will help him to determine the period of reproduction and the environmental factors which complement this process.

Overall, this grand investigation will be able to reveal important facts about the environmental conditions that are able to influence the life story and reproduction period of the cold-water coral C. huinayensis and it will also be able to demonstrate the possible effects of environmental changes attributed to anthropic activities upon the coral life cycle, and how these effects may be mitigated during the period that this coral is most vulnerable.

Nos visitan Thomas Heran y Fernando Cornejo para investigar el “Coral copita de Huinay”

Nos visitan Thomas Heran y Fernando Cornejo para investigar el “Coral copita de Huinay”

El pasado 24 de julio del presente año llegaron a la estación científica, San Ignacio de Huinay, Thomas Heran y Fernando Cornejo, con la importante misión de realizar Buceos Científicos para la investigar la estacionalidad reproductiva e historia de vida del coral de agua fría “coral copita del Huinay” (Caryophyllia huinayensis).

Thomas es un joven científico chileno que desde hace más de un año realiza su Doctorado en el Instituto Alfred Wegener (AWI) en Alemania, llevando a cabo su investigación que se titula “Early life history of the cold-water coral, Caryophyllia huinayensis from Comau Fjord, Chile”. En esta expedición es acompañado por Fernando Cornejo, buso profesional con basta experiencias en expediciones científicas, el cual colabora con las tareas de recolección y fotografía de los corales y su entorno.

C. huinayensis es un tipo de coral de aguas frías endémico de Chile. Se distribuye entre los 37°S-50°S con una distribución vertical desde 11 a 800 metros de profundidad. Es una especie poco conocida de la cual su historia de vida y biología aún está a la espera de ser descrita. Estando en condiciones de baja salinidad y pH, condiciones extremas para organismos calcificadores, estos individuos pueden llegar a encontrarse en abundancias mayores a 2200 ind./m2.

Las causas más relevantes que amenaza a los corales, aparte de la acidificación de los Océanos producto al cambio climático, es el estrés en respuesta a los sedimentos que proviene tanto de procesos naturales como de actividades antropogénicas, como lo es la salmonicultura.

A comienzo del año pasado, en los laboratorios experimentales de AWI, Thomas evidencio un proceso inédito, que lo llevo a reformular su proyecto. Ejemplares de C. huinayensis (llevados desde el fiordo Comau a Alemania en 2014), presentaban dentro de sus tentáculos unas estructuras anaranjadas que se movían. A través de la técnica conocida como “time-lapse”, pudo corroborar que estas estructuras tenían movilidad propia, y eran expulsadas por la boca del coral hacia la columna de agua.

Realizando una seria de experimentos pudo evidenciar que estas estructuras anaranjadas tenían flotabilidad positiva durante los primeros días. Sin embargo, su hallazgo llegó más allá. Por un lado, pudo determinar que el cambio estructural entre larva a un recluta (metamorfosis) ocurría entre las primeras 24 horas y los 29 días luego de ser liberadas del coral (proceso descrito in vitro). Por el otro lado, fue capaz de revelar mediante documentación fotográfica, los procesos metamórficos que ocurren en la historia temprana del coral.

¿Qué es lo que esta pasando en el fiordo en comparación al laboratorio? Esta es la gran interrogante que Thomas pretende responder en su segunda etapa de investigación, y por la cual llega a Huinay. En el área contempla realizar terrenos en cada estación durante un año, con el fin de colectar corales, muestras de agua, como también de zooplancton. Datos que lo ayudaran a determinar la época de reproducción y cuáles son los factores ambientales que complementan este proceso.

Finalmente, esta gran investigación podrá revelar importantes datos de como las condiciones ambientales pueden estar influyendo la historia de vida y la estacionalidad reproductiva del coral de aguas frías C. huinayensis, además de poder evidenciar los efectos que podría tener en su ciclo vital los cambios ambientales atribuidos a las actividades antrópicas, como también implementar futuras mitigaciones en la época en que este coral es mas sensible a tales efectos.  

What is the importance of the visit of the group of scientists from the University of Tasmania?

What is the importance of the visit of the group of scientists from the University of Tasmania?

Between 17 and 24 February 2019 a scientific workshop was held at the Fundacion San Ignacio del Huinay, where scientists from Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Scotland and Canada came together to support and discuss how they can in their individual fields contribute to the study of climate change and it’s impacts on marine life worldwide. Dr. Graham Edgar and Dr. Mark Costello, conducted as part of two larger projects that encompass both global climate change and the status of marine protected areas worldwide, led the workshop.

The main objective of this group is to discover how high sea temperatures are affecting reef species, specifically concerning the consequences of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. IPCC reports (2018) indicate that between 2030 and 2052 the world will have an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperature levels. More than 93% of this heat generated by the emission of effective greenhouse gases has been absorbed by the sea (IUCN 2017). It is estimated that the average sea temperature will increase between 1 and 4 degrees by the year 2100. Due to this increase in sea temperature, it is predicted that there will be a loss of between 70-90% of the biodiversity of the world’s coral reefs (IPCC 2018). Additionally, this increase in temperature affects fish, birds and mammals, as the loss of breeding areas intensifies, mortalities increase and species migrations increase (IUCN 2017).

One of the purposes of the workshop was to conduct dives in different points of the fjord, transects in sites originally visited in 2012, to corroborate the effects of the multiple use Marine Protected Area of the Fundacion San Ignacio del Huinay on biodiversity conservation, which was part of the network of the global Reef Life Survey. This Reef Life Survey (RLS) is a global citizen science program that monitors marine biodiversity. The results of the original survey was published in the highly respected scientific journal ‘Nature’ as part of a global study on the effectiveness of marine protected areas worldwide. Conclusions were that at least four out of five requirements must be met for marine protected areas to have a significant impact on biodiversity conservation, compared to unprotected marine areas. The five requirements are: that it be an area without properly applied exploitation, larger than 100 square km, approximately 10 years old, and that the area should be isolated by deep water or sand.

After the dives in the protected area. What were the conclusions or impressions of international
scientists?

Dr. Graham Edgar of the University of Tasmania, leader of this research group referred to what he saw during the visit on his dives, “I saw no indicator of conservation benefits made by the marine protected area”. He exposes “Human activities have had a negative impact on the fjord ecosystem since my visit six years ago. There is a lot of garbage from aquaculture and artisanal fishing, which is already distributed on the bottom of the sea and plastics on the shores. The abundance of deep-water coral species also seems to be declining. The marine protected area does not seem to be respected so it [the designation as an MPA] has produced little or no advantage that I could see.” However, Dr. Edgar said he remains fascinated by the unique marine life found in the region,” including many species normally limited to deep waters. They haven’t changed much since the dinosaur era!”

What are the challenges posed after the visit of this group of scientists?

The challenges posed corresponded to the true effectiveness of the marine protected area of San Ignacio del Huinay. Unfortunately, according to the study by Dr. Edgar and various scientists, this particular MPA is considered ineffective. Reasons for this include the allowance of artisanal fishing, the cultivation of shellfish and salmon within the boundaries of the area. Ideally, to have a significant impact on biodiversity conservation the area should be one of no exploitation or a ‘no-take’ area. Additionally, the size of the San Ignacio del Huinay MPA is only 4.15 sq km (significantly less than the 100 sq km proposed for minimal biodiversity conservation benefit) and finally, the MPA is not isolatedto boat traffic. Nonetheless, all these activities are with the permission of the law, since the designation of this marine protected area is for multiple uses. As a conclusion, it is questionable whether the designation of protected areas as multiple-use are really worth it?

Anthozoa.com

Ecosystem Research in Chilean Patagonia

Telephone

Scientific Office: +56 652912147

Mailbox

Casilla # 1150, Puerto Montt, Chile.

 

Huinay (HSFS)

Designed by wyd.cl | © 2018 www.anthozoa.com. All rights reserved.

Visiting the Mother of Gods

Visiting the Mother of Gods

Figure 1: From Left to Right: Rodrigo Sanchez, Christoph Mayr, Lilian Reiss, Gunter Försterra, Aris Thomasberger, Luis Hernández Maldonado.

In January 2018 a team of six brave scientists from the Huinay Scientific Field Station embarked an adventurous expedition into the heart of the archipelago Madre de Dios (Mother of Gods Archipelago) situated in the province of Última Esperanza (Province of Last Hope) of the Region Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica.

The expedition group consisted of two teams, a terrestrial and a marine one, plus Huinay’s fearless captain Don Boris. The terrestrial team’s (Christoph and Lilian) mission was to collect calcareous sinter, a freshwater calcium carbonate deposit with well-developed lamination, as well as core samples of old trees in order to reconstruct the climate history of the area through stable isotope analysis.

The marine team`s (Fossi, Rodrigo and Aris) mission was to visit an experiment site in the narrow Copihue Channel (50°20’24.23″S, 75°22’42.51″W) were a recent mass mortality of the hydrocoral Errina antarctica is being investigated. After monitoring equipment installed on a prior Huinay expedition was reported missing, the team brought a full new set of instruments including multiple temperature logger, a conductivity meter, two current meter and one acoustic doppler current profiler that needed to be installed in the Channel.

After a 24 hours boat trip from Puerto Natales through the channels of the Magellanes Region, the group arrived at their destination and basecamp – the world’s southernmost limestone mine on the very isolated Guarello Island where accommodation, food and workspace was provided by IMOPAC, the mine operator.

Figure 2: World’s southernmost limestone mine on Guarello Island.

Shortly after arrival, the marine team started to unpack the expedition boxes and dive gear while the terrestrial team already started to explore the surrounding forests.

During the following ten days, ten dives were conducted in occasionally difficult conditions due to very strong and rapidly changing wind driven currents. The monitoring instruments were successfully deployed and pictures were taken of recruitment tiles installed in 2016. To the delight of the divers, multiple new recruits of the hydrocoral E.antarctica were spotted along the channel’s walls, some measuring about 25cm in diameter, after a mass mortality event eradicated the entire population some years ago.

Figure 3: Diver installing a current meter.

In September 2018 divers will head back to this remote area to retrieve the instruments and read out the data, revealing some more secrets of this incredibly interesting and unknown world and hopefully giving hints to what could have led to the sudden death of hydrocorals in the narrow channel.

Figure 5: New recruits of E.antarctica in the Copihue Channel.
Misfortunes Never Come Singly: An Expedition Full of the Unexpected

Misfortunes Never Come Singly: An Expedition Full of the Unexpected

In April and May 2018, divers and scientists from Huinay Scientific Field Station (HSFS) sailed to Canal Martinez and Canal Messier in Southern Patagonia where they carried out dozens of transect dives in depths ranging from 0m to 499m and discovered deep-sea sharks, chimaeras, coral banks and colourful sea fans.

Separated in two parts, the fourth expedition (HF37) of the year was the longest and most anticipated expedition of 2018 lasting for almost six weeks. The first part was dedicated to collect material for two long-term marine research projects that investigate how environmental components (or abiotic factors) affect the benthic community in three very unrelated fjord regions of Chilean Patagonia (see project here), and how the melting of glaciers affect coastal ecosystems (see project here) The second part of the expedition was carried out with the purpose of discovering new species in the Patagonian fjords and raising awareness about the beautiful wonders of Chilean Patagonia through SCUBA diving and deep sea exploration with a remote operated vehicle (ROV) (see project here).

Fig. 1. The team of Huinay sails through pristine parts of Chilean Patagonia on the sailboat Saoirse to reach the Martinez channel. Photos: Mette Schiønning

Part I:

Transect Dives

In order to reach the destination of the expedition, the group from Huinay teamed up with Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth, owners of the sailboat Saoirse and long-term collaborators of the station. After days of travelling in the pristine and breath-taking fjords of Patagonia and meeting the captains of Saoirse in Puerto Eden, the SCUBA dive team finally reached Canal Martinez, where the first part of the expedition would take place (Fig. 1). D uring that following week, the dive team conducted more than 10 hours of transects in 0-20 m depth, covered what is equivalent to a 3 km horizontal stretch and collected more than 1000 transect photographs. which will be analysed by scientists from the Institute of Marine Sciences at Austral University of Chile  during the austral winter/spring 2018.

Stranded Teams in Isolated Patagonia

After completing the transect SCUBA dives, it was time to sail back to Puerto Eden to collect the remaining and newly arriving Huinay team, however, this was easier said than done. As the dive team laid anchor in Connor’s Cove to rest for the night, the propeller got stuck. In spite of great effort, underwater investigations of the propeller and intense pulling for several days, the propeller did not move a single inch. Meanwhile, things were not looking brighter for the arriving Huinay team either.

Defying all wind, weather and waves, the second group finally arrived at Connor’s Cove in the evening, after having spent two wet and cold days in rough sea on an artisanal fishing vessel while towing Noctiluca, the station’s research vessel equipped to operate the ROV. It was a series of unfortunate events, including a ferry collision with a rock resulting in team having to return to harbour, and wait for a replacement boat to Puerto Eden.

Part II:

ROV Dives and Underwater Footages 

Pleased to be reunited, the group set out the following day to embark the second part of the expedition: to explore the unexplored Canal Messier – the deepest channel in the world outside of Antarctica. But shortly after, while attempting to launch the ROV, the group was facing new challenges. A large amount of electrical discharges was emitted from a 100 kg heavy cable reel that was connected to the ROV, which consequently prohibited the team from continuing their research. Therefore, the team saw no other option but to return to Connor’s Cove in order to solve the problem. Working days and nights without completely solving the technical issue, including disassembling the reel with 600 m of cable, disconnecting all the cables to the ROV and making numerous satellite phone calls to a technician of the manufacturer, the team was once more prepared to test the underwater robot (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. The Huinay team is working day and night to solve the technical issues. Photos: Mette Schiønning.

Equipped with rubber gloves, puffy survival suits and life jackets, the team successfully launched the ROV down to 250 m in the deepest part of Canal Messier, where they recorded interesting gorgonians, a group of soft corals also known as sea fans (Fig. 3). But as the team got ready to sample their interesting findings with the ROV’s manipulator arm in the deep, the thrusters failed and the team lost control of the robot. Forced to abort the ROV dive, the team found themselves back in the cove with malfunctioning thrusters.

At this point, considering the idea of discontinuing the expedition hardly mattered, as the ferry that was going to bring the team back to Puerto Montt had been delayed by a week.

So while the technical team had to deal with an additional issue, Vreni Häussermann and a scientific research assistant went SCUBA diving in the nearby vicinity to collect sea anemones for genetic studies and to take underwater footages of the picturesque marine environment in Canal Messier (Fig. 4).

Fig. 3. The team is preparing for a new ROV launch. Photos: Mette Schiønning

Fig. 4.  Hydrocorals (Errina antarctica) are often used as substratum by basket stars (Gorgonocephalus chilensis). Sea anemones (Metridium senile lobatum) are dominating in most shallow areas. Photos: Vreni Häussermann.

With a highly compromised ROV, the scientific team eventually managed to carry out two more ROV dives in Canal Messier, including a 499 m dive where they discovered deep-sea sharks, the closely related chimaera, precious coral banks and colourful sea fans. Although, the expedition did not proceed as expected, the Huinay team did not leave empty handed. They still managed to cover a large area through SCUBA diving and launched the ROV on a few locations that have never been explored before.

ith a highly compromised ROV, the scientific team eventually managed to carry out two more ROV dives in Canal Messier, including a 499 m dive where they discovered deep-sea sharks, the closely related chimaera, precious coral banks and colourful sea fans. Although, the expedition did not proceed as expected, the Huinay team did not leave empty handed. They still managed to cover a large area through SCUBA diving and launched the ROV on a few locations that have never been explored before.

Fig. 5. The Huinay team is closely monitoring the marine life and the bathymetry in the deep parts of Canal Messier. Photos: Mette Schiønning.

Take-Home Message from Vreni Häussermann: 

“The take-home message from this trip is unquestionably regardless of how well prepared you are for any expedition, Patagonia is and remains extremely challenging for scientific research. Its harsh climate, the limited days of decent weather, the intricate fjords and the travel time needed to get from a to b. These are only a fraction of all the factors that have to be taken into account in order to conduct marine research in Patagonia. However, this is also what makes this region so special. It is one of the last untouched areas on earth which reveals an incredible biodiversity and a multitude of animals in a pristine environment, which is important to protect so it can be explored and enjoyed by future generations to come.” 

The entire team from Huinay would like to express their sincere gratitude for the all the support received from Greg, Keri and Aliro from Puerto Eden and their great readiness and professionalism.

Pitipalena Fjord is a Paradise of Unexplored Gems and Treasures

Pitipalena Fjord is a Paradise of Unexplored Gems and Treasures

Fig. 1: View from the jetty at Añihue Marine Reserve.
Photo credit: Francisco Izquierdo.

In February, divers and scientists from Huinay Scientific Field Station successfully transected an underwater area longer than 1.5km, they discovered a remarkable coral bank on 60m depth, sampled interesting sea life in a marine lake and mapped large parts of the sea floor.

For the second time in a year, the scientific team of Huinay Scientific Field Station (HSFS) visited the Pitipalena fjord in Añihue, as a part of a larger inter-disciplinary marine project, involving scientists from all over the world, including Chile, Scotland and Germany. The purpose of the project is to assess the non-living components (abiotic factors) in the environment influencing living organisms in three different fjords in order to create a baseline for large-scale rapid assessments of benthic communities and to increase awareness on diversity of marine benthic assemblages of Chilean Patagonia.

Discovery of a deep-water coral bank. 
Shortly after the arrival at Añihue Marine Reserve, the team assembled the remote operated vehicle (ROV), a special-made underwater robot that can dive down to 500m depth (Fig. 1). It was also with this device during an exploration of the deeper parts of the fjord that the scientific team discovered the impressive coral bank. Vreni Häussermann, the Scientific Director of the field station, explains: “We are extremely thrilled to have discovered the deep-sea coral bank in such a shallow depth. Further research is definitely needed to investigate if there are more of these unknown wonders of nature out there.”

Exploration of the Pitipalena fjord.
During the week-long expedition, the team worked both night and day to keep their tight schedule. A fellow scientist and cartographer, with expertise in sea floor mapping, also known as bathymetry mapping, was covering large areas of the fjord 24 hours around the clock with a sonar to locate important habitats later to be explored by the ROV team. Whereas the deeper parts of the fjord were video transected by the ROV, the shallower depths were explored by a group of divers. On four different sites, clearly distinct from each other, divers conducted photo transects between 0 and 21 m depth to record the biodiversity and to understand the distribution of marine benthic fauna in the shallow region.

Fig. 2: The team is getting ready to launch the first dive with the station’s ROV in Pitipalena fjord. Photo credit: Mette Schiønning.

Santo Domingo lake
On one of the final days, the team also went to the marine lake Santo Domingo which is only connected through a small river to the ocean (Fig. 2). In the crystal clear water, the team sampled a number of extraordinary fauna to find out if the species differ from the species found in the ocean. “It is going to be very exciting to see if any new species have evolved within the lake. When we return to the station, we will start analysing the data to find answers to our many questions,” Vreni said.

Fig. 3: Drone image from Santo Domingo Lake. Photo credit: Francisco Izquierdo.

Fig. 4: (from left to right) A small colony of sea cucumbers, a jellyfish and sea anemone
Photo credit: Francisco Izquierdo.
The group of scientists cheerfully called the expedition a great success, who also wanted to take the opportunity to thank the entire team of Añihue Marine Reserve for their great help and support during their visit.

If you want to see more from this year´s expedition in Añihue, watch the following short video made by Francisco Izquierdo, an external assistant of Huinay, experienced diver and doctor.

error: Content is protected !!