Tech UPTechnologyMalaspina's world tour concludes

Malaspina's world tour concludes

malaspina2After seven months of navigation and 32,000 nautical miles traveled, theoceanographic vessel Hespérides returned to Spainyesterday thursday, july 14,culminating the circumnavigation of the Malaspina expedition. The project, led by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), leaves a legacy ofmore than 120,000 samples of air, water, gases and planktonfrom the Atlantic, the Indian and the Pacific, which will serve to develop reference collections for the international scientific community and to promote future studies on ocean biodiversity and the impact of global change.

“With our arrival in port the expedition does not end. Years of laboratory work begin, where we will see the tangible scientific results of this project emerge. We come loaded with samples that provide a wealth capable of solving problems for society in different fields”, he has highlighted Carlos Duarte, project coordinator. The expedition has evaluated, through experiments, theimpact of global change on marine plankton. Scientists have observed the effect of increased temperature on its metabolism, production and ability to act as a source or sink of carbon dioxide, the impact of ultraviolet radiation on its photosynthetic activity, the degree of acidification of ocean waters by the penetration of CO2 and its impact on calcifying organisms.

The ocean loses oxygen

Researchers have detected a“Worrisome” loss of oxygen in subtropical and tropical waters in all oceans. They point out as one of the main causes the lack of ventilation, a process related to global warming. “This dead zone does hide a planktonic life, especially microbial, adapted to the lack of oxygen,” explains CSIC scientist Rafel Simó, chief scientist on board from Honolulu to Cartagena de Indias. With the samples taken in these waters, the scientists hope to be able to sequence for the first time the genome of the plankton that lives in these conditions.

Researchers have verified the presence of large amounts of tiny plastic fragments in the South Atlantic gyre, “an area very far from the continents and where human industrial activity is almost non-existent,” says Pep Gasol, chief scientist of the stage since Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town. Scientists fear that these plastics could interfere with the dynamics of natural marine communities in this area. In theSouth Pacific, near Samoa, had the highest water transparency ever measured. ? Ultraviolet radiation penetrates up to 60 meters deep in doses sufficient to cause mortality in plankton cells ,? explains Susana Agustí, researcher at the CSIC and scientific head of the stages from Perth to Honolulu. The fundamental reason is the shortage of dissolved organic matter and phytoplankton, as well as the depletion of the ozone layer.

Scientists aboard the Sarmiento de Gamboa explored the subtropical gyre of the North Atlantic for just under two months, a region of the ocean of great interest for climate studies. They found that the ocean temperature in this region has increased in the eastern basin, while in the western basin it has decreased. Another novel finding is that the deepest layer, the one located more than 5,000 meters deep, has warmed.

Knowing the deep ocean

The surveys carried out up to6,000 meters deepThey have given researchers a more precise idea of the properties of the deep ocean. Although this area, practically unknown, does not hide a large number of microorganisms (their abundance is 10 to 100 times lower than that of the surface), it is an ecosystem with more intense biological activity than previously thought. Specifically, the deep equatorial ocean has,at 4,000 meters, a bacterial production 10 times higher than in other parts of the ocean.

In the depths of the dark ocean, the region between 2,000 and 4,000 meters deep, lives a large number ofmicroalgaein perfect state. ? This discovery indicates that the transport of these algae to the depths of the ocean is much faster than previously thought and suggests that the capacity of marine plankton to act as a carbon sink may be greater than is believed ,? says Duarte .

The so-called “skin of the ocean”, in the first 10 centimeters of the surface, is inhabited by a very diverse community, from jellyfish, crustaceans, fish larvae and mollusks to insects.Halobates. These species serve as food for organisms such as myctophid fish, which every night, to avoid the ultraviolet radiation of the Sun, rise from the depths to the surface.

There is also abundantzooplanktonin the Indian Ocean, the least studied ocean on the planet. The samples taken from the Hespérides, the first Spanish oceanographic vessel to have explored these waters, confirm the presence of numerous gelatinous organisms of the Salpidae family and Physalia and Velilla jellyfish. The Indian Ocean also has the ability to absorb three times more nitrogen from the atmosphere than the Atlantic.

Malaspina’s legacy

About 20,000 of the samples taken will make up the Malaspina Collection, a bank that will remain sealed for 30 years so that future generations of researchers have a window on the state of the ocean in 2010 and 2011 and can research and develop new techniques. Researchers have already begun to assemble a collection of organisms that live from the surface to 4,000 meters deep, from viruses and bacteria to jellyfish and fish larvae. With the more than 1,200 samples they hope to develop aglobal microbial genomics collection.

In addition, as it passed through the Pacific, between Auckland and Honolulu, the expedition collected samples of atmospheric particles, water and plankton toassess possible radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. We will still have to wait for the analysis in the laboratory to obtain a result.

 

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