MUSELS at an International Symposium: Scientists around the world gather to learn about new research findings on Ocean Acidification


The event was held for the first time in the southern hemisphere and allowed the countries of this region of the world to showcase the importance of studying the process and impact of acidification in the ocean.

About 300 experts from various countries arrived for the fourth version of the International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, which this year took place in the city of Hobart in Tasmania, Australia. On the occasion, researchers from the Millennium Science Initiative: Center for the Study of Multiple Drivers on Marine Socio-Ecological Systems (MUSELS), presented different studies related to the impacts of ocean acidification across the Chilean coast.

The idea of the activity was to provide a space for the global community of scientists working to understand the impacts and evolution of Ocean Acidification (OA), and share the results of their research and generate new collaborations.

The meeting aimed to know the state of the art regarding the evolution of the OA in different types of marine environments around the world (estuarine, coastal, open ocean, etc.). It also aimed at comparing the impact of this process in several areas (ecological, economic, productive, etc.) that have been evaluated through field and laboratory experiments.

The activity fostered an environment where the steps to be followed were discussed, charting research priorities from here to the next meeting, to be held in four years more.

Participation MUSELS


Dra. Luisa Saavedra, a postdoctoral fellow with MUSELS at Universidad de Concepción (UdeC).

Topics covered during the meeting covered the entire range of issues currently debated for OA. In the case of the MUSELS team, four researchers presented their stDra. Luisa Saavedra, a postdoctoral fellow with MUSELS at Universidad de Concepciónudies and their vision of the way ahead.

Dra. Luisa Saavedra, a postdoctoral fellow with MUSELS at Universidad de Concepción (UdeC), presented patterns of variability in pH and pCO2 in an upweling area impacted by river discharges. Dr. Nelson Lagos, for Universidad Santo Tomas, addressed the issue of the impact of OA in calcifying marine mollusks (which make calcium carbonate shells) along the coast of Chile, with special emphasis on edible species farmed by the aquaculture industry.


Dr. Stefan Gelcich, from P. Universidad Católica.

On the other hand, Dr. Stefan Gelcich, from P. Universidad Católica, presented a plenary talk about the impact of OA on the marine socio-ecological system, explaining how humans must must adapt and create adaptive  strategies to face impacts that this process will generate for coast activities (aquaculture for example).

Finally, Dr. Cristian Vargas, the director of MUSELS from UdeC, spoke about the role played by the natural variability of pH and pCO2 in the adaptation and selection of organisms that might be more tolerant to OA impacts. He also noted how this process must be studied to know the real impact of the AO in coastal species that are naturally exposed to low pH and corrosive seawater.


Dr. Nelson Lagos, for Universidad Santo Tomas.

After this scientific meeting, the group of researchers from MUSELS remained in Hobart for three days, participating in the 3rd Workshop Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, GOA-ON, grouping in the Dr. Vargas is part of its Executive Committee Scientific.

Ocean Acidification

For years we have heard about Global Warming and its consequences for the environment, a process that gradually affects the earth as result of increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Dr. Vargas explains that the oceans play an important role regulating the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, thereby allowing also regulate the planet’s climate through the absorption of about one-third of the 20 million tons of CO2 man annually releases into the atmosphere.

“One cost of this process is that the chemical properties of our oceans are changing slowly, and also increase the levels of CO2 in sea water and generating, therefore, a reduction in pH levels (or degree of acidity ), a process known as OA “says the researcher.

Dr. Cristian Vargas, the director of MUSELS from UdeC.In this regard, experts from around the world have observed and studied how progressively increases the AO, concluding that so far about the changes represent almost 30% increase in acidity.

“The AO has an impact on marine species, sometimes positive, sometimes negative — from bacteria and algae to corals, fish and marine invertebrates; Today this process is recognized as one of the main threats following impacts on ecosystem services provided by the ocean man (which are many), “says the director of MUSELS.

Future predictions indicate that the ocean will continue to absorb more CO2 and become even more acidic. Acidification can affect many marine organisms and in different degrees, but especially those who build their shells and skeletons with calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Bernardo Broitman, CEAZA researcher and deputy director of MUSELS says that within the research that has been developed in the context of this issue, there have been different answers to the process.

“For example we have seen that effects are highly variable between populations of the same species. We have also noted that adults and juveniles of some species do not suffer much impact, but the amount of food that they have access to becomes vital to tackle acidification. They may have the physiological capacity to adapt, but this could be energetically very costly for the organism”.

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