Biodiversity in the Waters around South America -the Known and the Unknown

Concepción, Chile, 28-30 October 2002

Workshop organised by POGO, CoML and COPAS(UdeC)


The idea of a South American Biodiversity Meeting originated this year following a Biology Workshop held by POGO (Dartington Report). The goal of the Workshop was to have a small group of experts advise POGO Directors on what could be done by POGO to enhance biological observations (long-term, large-scale), ensuring that the proposed observations would benefit the goals of long-term monitoring, as well as help address the pressing scientific issues of the day. The recommendations from the workshop were presented at the general meeting, POGO-3, in the end of November 2001. Further, during the previous POGO-2 meeting (Brazil) the need to enhance oceanographic observations in the Southern Hemisphere was also discussed. Putting these two priorities together, it becomes clear that it would be desirable to hold a workshop to explore what could be done to enhance biological oceanographic observations in the Southern Hemisphere. At the General meeting of POGO in November, it was recommended that this idea be carried forward. It was further observed that the goals of POGO expressed above coincided with the goals of Census of Marine Life (CoML) in promoting studies of marine biodiversity in the Southern Hemisphere and that it would be desirable to prepare a proposal to obtain funds to finance a South American gathering to foster the above mentioned goals. The Sloan Foundation was identified as the addressee of the proposal.

The South American Connection

Two of the POGO oceanographic institutions, SIO and WHOI, have strong ties with Chile and in particular with the University of Concepción, where recently the first National Center for Oceanography has been funded by the Chilean Government, through the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research. It was thus felt that an appropriate venue for the proposed workshop was the University of Concepción, which has, furthermore, a long tradition in the area of marine biodiversity and strong ties with other universities, both national and regional.

Rationale of the Workshop

The applicants discussed these issues during their participation in the Biodiversity Symposium of the IAPSO/IABO 2001: An Ocean Odyssey (Mar del Plata, 26 October 2001). The enormous scientific and societal value of the actions already taken by CoML was noted during these discussions. It was further noted that, whereas most South American countries maintain traditional initiatives in the area of marine biodiversity, very few countries were represented in the Mar del Plata meeting to benefit from the presentations and discussions on modern techniques and approaches to the theme. So far, few scientists in the region are familiar with CoML as an emerging but most emblematic modern international program on biodiversity and related oceanographic processes.

This situation makes it thus highly desirable to hold a regional workshop in order to foster the goals, initiatives, ideas, technologies of both CoML and POGO, and to explore possibilities for local and north-south cooperation in the South American region.

Objectives of the Workshop

From the point of view of interested scientists of the region, one of the main objectives of the South-American Marine Biodiversity Workshop would be to learn both about CoML and POGO, their actions, advances, application of novel techniques, and of the opportunities for international cooperation in new projects relating biodiversity and ocean observations. This will entail the participation of some of the major present actors within CoML and POGO.Another major objective of the workshop will be to learn about the activities of South American countries in these areas and their national priorities. To accomplish this, a suite of key South American experts will be invited to offer overview presentations. Additionally, non-South American scientists with considerable expertise and experience in the SA marine realm will be eligible for this type of presentation.

The dual strategies of CoML to attain its goals are to develop key projects that explore unique marine habitats in particular regions and to create regional committees to support these projects and encourage CoML approaches to other habitat zones. So far, the only CoML activities in the Southern Hemisphere are in the Western Pacific. This leads us to the final objective: to identify possible new projects addressing problems of either regional (such as the Humboldt biome, and the Sub-Antarctic biome) or global (for example marine mammal migrations and South Pacific jack-mackerel migrations) relevance.

The Known, the Unknown and the Unknowable of South American marine biodiversity

Biodiversity is defined as the collection of genomes, species, and ecosystems occurring in a geographically defined region. There is a global agreement today that the diversity of life in the ocean is being altered increasingly by human activities and that the effects are potentially irreversible. The South American region is no exception to this trend. Among others, in this geographical region, the most critical (current or potential) ways in which marine biodiversity is or may be impacted, are: extraction of life from the seas; introduction of exotic species; chemical pollution; localized eutrophication and alteration of coastal habitats; and global climate change, including increased UV radiation and potentially rising temperatures, resulting in possible changes in the secular regional ocean cycles. These stresses may be affecting or may as yet affect life in the oceans from the intertidal zone to the deep sea.

This is a very large marine region, for the most part still unexplored. Therefore, a regional biodiversity effort appears to be most timely, to: (1) gain a precise insight into what is known and what is unknown, what is at present being done, and what is the potential for further activity regionally on the subject of biodiversity; and (2) explore how the present effort could be enhanced through both regional coordination and the participation of scientists from the developed world. New approaches have to be integrated with scientific effort and financial resources already in place.From the standpoint of South American marine biodiversity, Longhurst’s classification of biomes and provinces seems to be useful.1 In this system the South American region encompasses large and important coastal and oceanic biomes each with one or more provinces. (1) Within the Pacific Coastal Biome the Humboldt Current Coastal Province extends along most of the west coast of South America and is in direct contact with the oceanic South Pacific Subtropical Gyre Province; (2) On the east coast of South America the Atlantic Coastal Biome consists of the (a) Guianas Coastal Province, (b) the Brazil Current Coastal Province and (c) the Malvinas Current Coastal Province. The latter are in turn in contact with the oceanic Caribbean, the South Atlantic Gyral, the South Subtropical Convergence, and the Sub-Antarctic Water Ring Provinces, respectively. This diverse ecological geography suggests a most unique opportunity for a concerted study on functional marine biodiversity under very different and contrasting biogeographical, evolutionary, and ecological settings.At this point it is worth recalling some of the objectives of the US national research agenda on marine biodiversity2 which might be applicable in the South American region:

  • to understand the patterns, processes, and consequences of changing biodiversity by focusing on critical environmental issues and their threshold effects, and to address these effects at spatial scales from local to regional and at appropriate temporal scales;
  • to improve linkages between marine ecological and oceanographic sciences by increasing understanding of the connectivity between local, smaller-scale biodiversity patterns and processes and regional, larger-scale oceanographic patterns and processes that may directly impact local phenomena;
  • to strengthen and expand the field of marine taxonomy through training, the development of new methodologies, and enhanced information dissemination, and to raise the standard of taxonomic competence in all marine ecological research;
  • to facilitate and encourage the incorporation of (1) new technological advances in sampling and sensing instrumentation , experimental techniques, and molecular genetic methods; (2) predictive models for hypothesis development, testing, and extrapolation; and (3) historical perspectives (geological, paleontological, archaeological, and historical records of early explorations) in investigations of the patterns, processes, and consequences of marine biodiversity; and
  • to use the new understanding of the patterns, and consequences of marine biodiversity derived from this regional-scale research approach to improve predictions of the impacts of human activities on the marine environment.

Workshop Structure

The workshop structure is consistent with the above outlined major objectives. Thus, a first element will be a section where POGO- and CoML-associated scientists will present the status of their respective programs. Given the theme of the workshop, the progress, achievements and ideals of CoML will be emphasized. This element will require inviting presentations by leading scientists in charge of major present CoML pilot projects and at least one representative from POGO.A second element will be a section where senior/leading South American scientists will report on the activities of their countries inthe area of marine biodiversity. Traditionally, studies of biodiversity have been one of the strengths of the South American scientific community. However, many of these studies tend to be carried out in relative isolation, and it is at present very difficult to collect information on what is already known about the marine diversity of the region. The planned national and regional presentations will serve the purpose of compiling and disseminating information on what is known about the region. This will also form the basis on which plans for future studies to unveil the unknown can be founded. The known, the unknown and the essentials should emerge mainly from these presentations. This element might also require inviting presentations by non-South American scientists involved in marine biodiversity research in the South American region.

The third element of the workshop will be group/collective discussions whereby one or several potential South American initial/field projects could be identified. The emergence of an organization to foster these activities is envisioned. It is also foreseen that simple linkages with the ongoing projects of CoML may be identified and established through this type of activity.

Expected Outcomes

The following items represent the main expected outcomes from the workshop:The development of concepts and prioritiesfor new initial/field projects in the South American Region.

1. The development of concepts and priorities for new initial/field projects in the South American Region
2. Formation of a South American Committee for the Census of Marine Life/POGO initiative
3. Publication of Workshop Proceedings (preferably both in English and Spanish) hopefully as special issue of the Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 


The initial constitution of the Organizing Committee will be as follows:

Chair: Dr. Victor Ariel Gallardo
Director, Center for Oceanographic Research in the South-Eastern Pacific (COPAS),
Universidad de Concepción, Chile


Dr. Ron O’Dor
Senior Scientist, Census of Marine Life (CoML)

Dr. Shubha Sathyendranath
Executive Director, POGO

The organizing committee will work together with the country coordinators to decide on the invited attendees at the meeting, to plan the agenda, and to assign speaking and writing tasks to the participants. The Chair of the Organizing Committee will also be the Chair of the proposed Biodiversity Meeting.


ARGENTINA: Dr. Vivian Lutz, INIDEP (Instituto Nacional de Investigacion y Desarrollo Pesquero)

BRASIL: Dr. Erminda da C. Guerreiro Couto, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Núcleo de Estudos Oceanográficos

COLOMBIA: Dr. Juan Manuel Día, Dr.rer.nat, Head of the Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystems Program, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras, INVEMAR.

CHILE: Dr. Rubén Escribano, Associate Researcher, Center for Oceanographic Research in the South-Eastern PacificEstación de Biología Marina de Dichato, Universidad de Concepción

ECUADOR: Manuel Cruz, Instituto Oceanográfico

FRENCH GUYANA: Dr. Felipe Artigas, L.A.B.E.L. / UPRES-A CNRS 8013 ELICO, Université du Littoral Cote d’Opale

PERU: Dr. Juan Tarazona B., Director Dirección General de Programas, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONCYTEC)

URUGUAY: Dr. Danilo Calliari, Sección Oceanología Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Universidad de la República

VENEZUELA: Dr. Patricia Miloslavich, Laboratorio de Biología Marina, Departamento de Estudios Ambientales, Universidad Simón Bolivar

Year: 2002

Related documents

Scroll to Top