• In one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, the southernmost part of Chile’s Patagonia region, scientists are studying whales, dolphins and algae in order to help predict how climate change will affect the world’s oceans.
  • The researchers are analysing the chemical, physical and biological variables of the waters, which show lower levels of pH, salinity and calcium, especially in the most shallow areas, as a consequence of climate change.
  • The chilly fjord waters provide one of the most productive marine habitats in the world, where sardines and krill can be found in huge numbers.
  • But climate change poses a threat to its ecosystem as the melting of a glacier on Santa Ines island and increased rainfall have led to rising levels of freshwater.
  • If that continues, it would have dire consequences for whales as the plankton they feed on could disappear.
  • A change in the microalgae could generate changes in the secondary structure (of the marine system) or the animals that feed on these.
  • Under normal circumstances, when there is an abundance of microalgae, these provide food for the zooplankton that subsequently nourish the food chain all the way up to whales.
  • The waters of high latitudes, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, contain a huge amount of biological and physiochemical information that can be used as a basis to take crucial decisions for environmental preservation projects in developed countries
  • They also found a lower concentration of calcium carbonate, something which can affect the shells of marine organisms such as mollusks or krill, a staple of a whale’s diet.
  • The crab, a species vital to the economy of the region around the strait, could be affected as it needs calcium to harden its shell.