September 30, 2022 #Ciência e Conhecimento

Antarctic Science: The 7 lines of research promoted by Chile

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Climate change, resilience and adaptation of the Antarctic ecosystem are some of the areas of study that seek to strengthen and deepen knowledge about the polar environment.

On August 30, 1916, the first action of the Chilean State in Antarctica took place, which consisted of the rescue of the Chilean Navy pilot, Luis Pardo Villalón, from the crew participating in the imperial trans-Antarctic expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Today, 106 years later, our country is present on the White Continent with 14 bases and shelters in different parts of the Chilean Antarctic territory. In 1964 the Chilean Antarctic Institute was created, which has as part of its objectives to encourage the development of scientific research in the region. Currently the National Antarctic Science Program has 7 lines of research:

1. The state of the Antarctic ecosystem

Its objective is to understand the current patterns of biological diversity in order to differentiate the impacts of processes based on past signals, and to understand and develop future scenarios with a multidisciplinary approach. These investigations allowed us to evaluate the contribution of climatic changes to evolutionary processes, both in marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

2. Antarctic limiars: ecosystem resilience and adaptation.

The Antarctic Ocean and the Antarctic continent are not immune to the effects of human activities. The increase in atmospheric and sea surface temperature, the retreat of the ice, ocean acidification, changes in wind regimes, plastic pollution and the growing human presence are observable phenomena whose trends are becoming more evident every year. This line studies how Antarctic organisms have adapted to the peculiar conditions of this region and how they could respond to environmental changes.

3. Climate changes in Antarctica

The threat of a global climate crisis urgently demands both the ability of humankind to understand the fundamental aspects of recent environmental changes and to take action. These research projects focus on answers to questions associated with climate variability at different temporal and spatial scales, considering the characterization of the processes and variability of the cryosphere and the interactions with the associated terrestrial, atmospheric and oceanic geosystems.

4. Astronomy and geological sciences

The projects in this line of research focus on the study and understanding of the interactions between the terrestrial and cryospheric environments. It seeks knowledge of the processes occurring within and at the interfaces of the terrestrial, oceanic, cryospheric and atmospheric systems of the planet. This area also integrates projects in the disciplines of space physics and astronomical observation.

5. Biotechnologies

This line of research considers the molecular, metabolic and physiological characteristics of Antarctic organisms, in an effort to use them or their derivatives (biomolecules) for the creation or modification of products, applications or processes for specific uses. They may include proposals for innovative solutions to problems such as storage, energy optimization, or battles against bacteria, among others.

6. Human traumas in Antarctica

It promotes the study of the impact of human impact in Antarctica through the detection of persistent organic compounds in fauna and other harmful chemical compounds introduced by tourism, logistic operations and scientific activities. Some of the questions it seeks to answer are: what significant consequences will be observed in terms of anthropogenic impacts on the Antarctic ecosystem? How will humans and pathogens affect and adapt to Antarctic environments? How will regulatory mechanisms evolve to cope with the increasing pace of Antarctic tourism?

7. Social and human sciences

These branches of study play an essential role in the reflection on the future of the country and the world in relation to Antarctica. In this line we seek to answer simple but profound questions: How can we distinguish natural environmental changes from those caused by man? How does this knowledge affect Antarctic governance? How will external pressures and changes in geopolitical power configurations affect Antarctic governance and science?

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