A Song of Wind and Ice: Increased Frequency of Marine Cold-Spells in Southwestern Patagonia and Their Possible Effects on Giant Kelp Forests

Mora-Soto, A.; Aguirre, C.; Iriarte, J. L.; Palacios, M.; Macaya, E. C.; Macias-Fauria, M.


In contrast to other coastal regions of the world, the giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) ecosystem in southwestern Patagonia has been persistent in area and associated biodiversity in the last decades. In this ecoregion, sea surface temperature (SST) records have consistently remained below the upper thermal threshold for kelp survival, however, no studies have analyzed the spatiotemporal variability of SSTs and their anomalies across the geographical diversity of the southwestern Patagonian coastline. We explored the geographical distribution of extreme warm and cold events in this region from latitudes 47 degrees-56 degrees S in a range of similar to 1,000 km, identifying the dates and spatial distribution of marine heatwaves (MHWs) and marine cold-spells (MCSs) from 1982 to 2020. Results show that a peak in the number of MHWs occurred in the great El Nino year of 1998. Additionally, the 2014-2019 period has had more severe and extreme MCSs than the previous decades. We discuss the origin of these events with a focus on three main processes: (a) geographically constrained cold events caused by glacier melting, (b) regional cold events caused by extreme winds linked to the position of the polar front, and (c) extensive SST anomalies linked to planetary-scale events such as El Nino and La Nina. Overall, those processes were conductive to counteract global warming trends locally/regionally, highlighting southwestern Patagonia as a possible climatic refugium for the giant kelp ecosystem. Despite this, the effects of freshwater inputs and storm turbulence on the exposed coasts facing the Southern Ocean may cause new kinds of stress on this ecosystem.

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Título según WOS: ID WOS:000806591800001 Not found in local WOS DB
Volumen: 127
Número: 6
Fecha de publicación: 2022


Notas: ISI