The Deep Ocean
What are the structures of communities and the biogeochemical characteristics of deep and abyssal waters of the southeastern Pacific?
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13 Researchers

The ecosystems of deep SEP waters are practically unknown. Exploration of mesopelagic (>500 m) and abyssopelagic communities (>3000 m) represent unique opportunities to discover new forms of life, species and genes for science, as well as a major challenge for oceanography in the South Pacific basin. This initiative will allow for identifying the mechanism through which communities are able to distribute themselves widely and colonize unique habitats like the Atacama Trench and the Nazca, Salas & Gómez and Juan Fernández ranges. Our hypothesis is that the ranges contribute significantly to the dispersion of species and the gene flows in the coast-ocean direction, driven by the circulation of water masses and mixing associated with the meso and large scale physical dynamics. To address this theme we will carry out deep water samplings, including a MOCNESS net (maximum depth of 6,500 m) with an underwater video profiler (UVP), conductivity, temperature and fluorescence sensors and stratified sampling nets. The underwater video profiler provides profiles of the distributions of particle sizes, while the net samplings will be divided into fractions for examining live animals, DNA analysis and taxonomic studies. Water samples will also be taken for molecular and genomic analyses of microbial communities (viruses to protists). In situ incubation systems will be developed to estimate microbiological activity/rates. Quantitative and qualitative assessments will also be made of fish parasites and plankton as biomarkers of the dispersion of host species and the colonization of habitats. Individual and biogeochemical models will be used to analyze the mechanisms that contribute to maintaining endemic communities and the connectivity among different islands, seamounts and other oceanic regions. The expeditions will be conducted jointly with international counterparts. Molecular analysis of selected plankton will be centered on DNA microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA to relate sampled populations and species in the coast-ocean direction and in the vertical dimension. As well, the biogeochemical conditions of the deep ocean will be characterized, including measurements of carbon, and pH/pCO2 reserves and saturation states of calcite and aragonite (Ω). Inorganic carbon isotopes (12C, 13C, 14C), dissolved organic carbon and age determination (DO14C) will also be included with the aim of learning about biogeochemical rates and the mixing of water masses in deep water ecosystems.

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Universidad de ConcepciónPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileIniciativa Científica MilenioIniciativa Científica Milenio
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