The Humboldt Current System of northern and central Chile

Thiel M.; Macaya, EC; Acuña E.; Arntz WE; Bastias, H.; Brokordt, K.; Camus, PA; Castilla, JC; Castro, LR; Cortes, M; Dumont, CP; Escribano R.; Fernandez, M.; Gajardo, JA; Gaymer, CF; et. al.


The Humboldt Current System (HCS) is one of the most productive marine ecosystems on earth. It extends along the west coast of South America from southern Chile (similar to 42 degrees S) up to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands near the equator. The general oceanography of the HCS is characterised by a predominant northward flow of surface waters of subantarctic origin and by strong upwelling of cool nutrient-rich subsurface waters of equatorial origin. Along the coast of northern and central Chile, upwelling is localised and its occurrence changes from being mostly continuous (aseasonal) in northern Chile to a more seasonal pattern in southern-central Chile. Several important upwelling centres along the Chilean coast are interspersed with long stretches of coast without or with sporadic and less intense upwelling. Large-scale climatic phenomena (El Nino Southern Oscillation, ENSO) are superimposed onto this regional pattern, which results in a high spatiotemporal heterogeneity, complicating the prediction of ecological processes along the Chilean coast. This limited predictability becomes particularly critical in light of increasing human activities during the past decades, at present mainly in the form of exploitation of renewable resources (fish, invertebrates and macroalgae). This review examines current knowledge of ecological processes in the HCS of northern and central Chile, with a particular focus on oceanographic factors and the influence of human activities, and further suggests conservation strategies for this high-priority large marine ecosystem. Along the Chilean coast, the injection of nutrients into surface waters through upwelling events results in extremely high primary production. This fuels zooplankton and fish production over extensive areas, which also supports higher trophic levels, including large populations of seabirds and marine mammals. Pelagic fisheries, typically concentrated near main upwelling centres (20-22 degrees S, 32-34 degrees S, 36-38 degrees S), take an important share of the fish production, thereby affecting trophic interactions in the HCS. Interestingly, El Nino (EN) events in northern Chile do not appear to cause a dramatic decline in primary or zooplankton production but rather a shift in species composition, which affects trophic efficiency of and interactions among higher-level consumers. The low oxygen concentrations in subsurface waters of the HCS (oxygen-minimum zone, OMZ) influence predator-prey interactions in the plankton by preventing some species from migrating to deeper waters. The OMZ also has a strong effect on the bathymetric distribution of sublittoral soft-bottom communities along the Chilean coast. The few long-term studies available from sublittoral soft-bottom communities in northern and central Chile suggest that temporal dynamics in abundance and community composition are driven by interannual phenomena (EN and the extent and intensity of the OMZ) rather than by intra-annual (seasonal) patterns. Macrobenthic communities within the OMZ are often dominated in biomass by sulphide-oxidising, mat-forming bacteria. Though the contribution of these microbial communities to the total primary production of the system and their function in structuring OMZ communities is still scarcely known, they presumably play a key role, also in sustaining large populations of economically valuable crustaceans.

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Título según WOS: The Humboldt Current System of northern and central Chile
Volumen: 45
Fecha de publicación: 2007
Página de inicio: 195
Página final: 344
Idioma: English


Notas: ISI