Additional Participants


Laura Grange, Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton


Christopher Rigaud, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine

Graduate Student

Keri, Feehan

Undergraduate Student

Ashley Rossin

Project Period

February 1, 2012-January 31, 2014

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number

4900 / 1219554

Submission Date



The northern Patagonian fjords lie on the interface between the high Andes Mountains in the east and the South Pacific Ocean, formed thousands of years ago through erosive glacial activity and tectonic sinking (Borgel, 1970). Around 12,000 years ago the icefields in the Chiloé Interior Sea began to open, leaving behind over 15,000km2 of fjords, channels and gulfs (Clapperton, 1994). The waters within the fjords are influenced by strong tides, large volumes of freshwater runoff, and upwelling of deep-ocean waters as well as steep climatic gradients from north to south (observed in parameters such as temperature, wind intensity and precipitation; Silva et al., 1997; Leth et al., 2004). This dynamic environment has resulted in an extremely high biodiversity and endemism (Smith- Ramirez, 2004), yet this region is one of the least studied areas of the world. Both oceanographic (Arntz & Rios, 1999; Fernandez et al., 2000; Forsterra et al., 2005) and biological data are scarce (Arntz & Rios, 1999; Haussermann & Forsterra 2009) and only recently was it discovered that these fjords are one of the few areas in the world where deep-water fauna can survive in shallow-water habitats (Forsterra & Haussermann, 2003; Haussermann & Forsterra 2007).

The specific goals of this project were -

1. Establish a year-long monitoring site at three populations of Desmophyllum dianthus in the Comau fjord in Northern Patagonia

Two populations will be in areas unaffected with runoff, one population will be directly downstream of encroaching salmon farms These populations will have samples for histological analysis (see Waller et al., 2002 for methods) collected every 3 months, with samples for genetics (see Morrison et al., 2011 for methods) and TEM/SEM analysis (see Pradilla- Gamino et al., 2011 for methods) taken by the PI at the beginning and end of the project

2. Examine for recruitment at these three populations by placing recruitment panels both within and surrounding populations

3. Monitor environmental variables at each site

Salinity, Temperature and Light monitors will be deployed at each sample site. Every three months data will be downloaded, sensors cleaned and redeployed to give a full year of data at each site.

4. Record general biodiversity and habitat characteristics of each population

Each population will be photographed using scales to estimate age of population and number of corals and associated fauna. Benthic habitat will also be classified, as will areas surrounding the main population.

5. Examine other areas in the fjords to aid in our Chilean collaborators mission of adequately documenting locations of these fragile populations

For initial and final field seasons, once samples from all sites for the main project have been obtained, remaining dive days will be used to pair with station divers to catalogue areas of coral abundance and enter data onto a GIS database of cold-water corals in South America.

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