The Institute of Marine and Coastal Research (IIMyC) is part of the National University of Mar del Plata (UNMDP) and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET). This center is mainly oriented to scientific research, and training of human resources in postgraduate studies of marine ecology and coastal environments. The Institute of Marine and Coastal Research (IIMyC) is part of the National University of Mar del Plata (UNMDP) and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET). This center is mainly oriented to scientific research, and training of human resources in postgraduate studies of marine ecology and coastal environments.
Encouraging a collaborative and cooperative spirit, it brings together different research groups with an important history of national and international academic interactions (projects and grants in common, joint management of graduate students).
In terms of research, it pursuits programs that are complementary to the activities carried out by other institutions of applied research, strongly reinforcing the link between these and the University in order to promote the development of areas of research that due to the objectives, cannot be fulfilled by institutions which carry out projects of an applied nature.
As regards training of human resources, it has constant incorporation of Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows, and assists in the generation of a permanent offer of postgraduate courses at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the National University of Mar del Plata (FCEyN-UNMDP). In this sense, our researchers are key factors to generate programs of academic excellence with a strong emphasis in research, and training of human resources in marine and coastal ecology.
The main objective of this Institute is to study the importance of interface ecosystems (salt marshes, coastal areas -dunes, tidal flats- and marine fronts) of the Argentine coastal and oceanic basins. The continental shelf can be understood, at the landscape scale, as formed by patches of different masses of water, which define different interfaces in the zone of contact of two or more of them. These interfaces may vary at a temporal and geographic scale, and in their physical, chemical, oceanographic and biological characteristics. In addition, the continent-ocean interface is a highly complex component of great ecological importance, both by itself and by its interaction with the adjacent ocean.
Understanding the processes that occur in the land-ocean interface is a challenge, since it is necessary to change the classical conception by which each biome needs or possesses theoretical concepts of its own. Thus, understanding processes occurring in these interfaces may lead to better understanding of how ecosystems work. In this sense, the IIMyC promotes the development of applied and theoretical conceptions by facilitating progress in the knowledge of both systems and their interactions.
The coastal zone is an environmental system formed in the area of direct interaction between components of the continent, the ocean and the atmosphere. Its natural characteristics include beaches, coastal wetlands, estuaries, lagoons and dunes. These interfaces are very important in terms of transfer of matter and energy to and from the sea.
The salt marshes and tidal flats are one of the most outstanding interface ecosystems due to their biological diversity, and also because they are breeding and reproductive areas of numerous fish species, and feeding areas for migratory birds. Primary production is high and the transfer of this production to consumers affects processes in neighboring environments, often sustaining trophic chains of estuaries and bays. The marshes are also very efficient in trapping carbon dioxide that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere. In some cases, the plants of coastal wetlands play a fundamental role, in others, the benthic algae or algae and phytoplankton of the tidal flats are more important. It is necessary to establish guidelines related to environmental management, urban development and conservation in order to be aware of the relative importance of these ecosystems, as deterioration in these areas could produce a cascade effect on the entire estuarine food chain. The coastal dunes are another type of interface ecosystems located on the land-sea border. They constitute an area of transition, where the marine influence decreases toward the continent generating an important environmental gradient (such as salinity and wind effects). Understanding the role of the marine influence on the dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems is of growing interest given the existing records that show gradual increases in the sea level. The use of these lands includes urban facilities, forestry, livestock, tourism and recreation. As a result, non-regulated tourism activities, over-grazing, forest plantations and sand exploitation are the main threats on this environment.
Watersheds are natural systems of great interest in themselves and from the point of view of their integration with interface environments. The origin of these watersheds and their geological composition determine their physical and chemical characteristics exerting their influence on plant and animal biodiversity. In addition, land use and the natural wearing of adjoining lands have important impact in both the availability and the quality of the water resources. Watershed areas, as natural systems, meet appropriate conditions for their particular study, constituting a direct and relevant link with the marine environment providing information on their land sources.
Ocean fronts are undoubtedly the next interface ecosystems of importance in marine environments. In the ocean, the properties of water do not vary gradually with distance. There are large areas in which horizontal variations of temperature and salinity are very small, surrounded by narrow sections where horizontal changes are extremely sharp. These thin bands are called fronts and should be observed as part of the structural complexity of the ocean at landscape scale. It is well established that they are regions of highly significant primary production and increased trophic activity at higher levels.
In our country, the knowledge of coastal and marine interface ecosystems (estuarine environments and marine fronts) is extremely irregular. The Río de la Plata estuary and marshes in the surrounding environments are perhaps the best known areas, as in recent years, researchers from several institutions have devoted efforts in their investigation. The continental slope is a system of special interest by its physical and dynamic characteristics and by the nature of its associated fisheries resources. However, both the extension and the geographic location make it technically and financially challenging to study. For this reason, most of the primary ecological processes of this system are still unknown. The tidal front of Peninsula de Valdés was first identified and described in 1980 as the result of intoxication with bivalve mollusks. Since then, several works have been developed on the physical and biological oceanography of this system, associated with the life cycle of species as anchovy, squid and Patagonian scallop.
Other systems in the region have not been sufficiently studied, although there is occasional and scattered information which may be analyzed once again in the light of the theoretical framework outlined in the proposal of our institution.