The group is founded by Dr. Rodolfo Elias and starts in 1997 as an excision of a former group “Benthic Ecology” (also founded by Elias in 1992) and it was recognized by the Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales of the National University of Mar del Plata by order OCA 805/97.
Before that, in 1996, the enterprise in charge of water management (OSSE) of Mar del Plata city (38° S) start a study to assess the feasibility of construction of a submarine outfall for ocean disposal of sewage (up to 3 m-3.sec-1 of intertidal untreated sewage discharge). Dr. Elias was invited to study the marine benthos, resulting in the first semi-quantitative data on depths lesser than 12 m. The authorities of OSSE was interested in the benthos studies as an environmental indicator, and in 1999 hired Dr. Elias, already at the head of his research group, to get the first quantitative data on infaunal macrobenthos in an area of 30 km2 (5 km off the intertidal effluent, and 3 km to both sides over the future submarine outfall). The objectives were double, assessing the status on subtidal community near the coast line due to sewage discharge, and to establish a base line for future monitoring. This study also provide the opportunity to assess the before/after summer effect of the sewage discharge, as well as the effect of a storm as structuring force in subtidal macrobenthic community. In the same moment the infaunal macrobenthic community of the Mar del Plata port was studied and the polychaetes as indicators was assessed.
In 1997 the effect of the intertidal sewage discharge on the intertidal community was started, resulting in a PhD study in 2002 (EAV). In the following years with CONICET fellowships other three PhD thesis were conducted (MA Sanchez, ML Jaubet, MG Pujol) and a post hoc fellowship (GV Garaffo). Two are incorporate as researches in 2013 (Garaffo) and 2015 (Jaubet). In 2017 two new PHD students are working in intertidal ecology (ME Becherucci, EN Llanos), and one more in taxonomy and ecology of Polychaete of the family Cirratulidae (MA Saracho-Bottero). Several degree theses were conducted in the group, all under the direction of R. Elias.
Since 2014 Dr. Vallarino is dedicated to Extension and his way becomes divergent. The group lead by R. Elias received three major projects form the National Agency for supporting Science (FONCyT-FONCyT), one with a fellowship associate.
The laboratory develops different aspects of quantitative benthic ecology in both intertidal and subtidal areas. Part of the time, biology, ecology and taxonomy of polychaetes are studied. This group is neglected in Argentina. Working in collaboration, Elias develops partially the Opheliidae, describing three new species, and the Trichobranchidae describing two new species. Species of rocky intertidal associate to mussel beds were described, the infaunal of the Mar del Plata port, and also the intertidal infauna from enriched beaches of Puerto Madryn, Patagonia (a degree thesis). A 40 years after sampling in two sandy beaches of Peninsula Valdes (Patagonia) were performed, one in the beach of Puerto Madryn and the other in San Roman (a reserve) in order to compare the changes from the original sampling (Orensanz collection).
Today, the Cirratulidae of austral region (except Antarctica) are revisited. The family is indicator of enriched areas and their taxonomy was based on northern hemisphere characters, and the material from southern areas needs to be examined and included in the systematic. The project is supported by a National fund (FONCyT) and a PhD student is collaborating. As part of this project the material of the Iziko Museum (Cape Town, South Africa) was revisited in 2016. In the same year the chapter of book “History and perspectives of the study of Polychaetes in Argentina” was published.
The group has signed for collaboration with people and groups of Uruguay and Brazil. Dr. Elìas is foreigner researcher in the Dr. Paulo Lana group (Parana State University).
Main research line is disturbance on benthos. Sewage-induced disturbance is the principal effect studied, affecting intertidal epilithic community in both Mar del Plata and Quequen cities.
Other studies are focused on interaction macrobenthos-sediments-contaminants around submarine outfall (PICT 2014 – 3484, amount: 333.000 pesos. Responsible Investigator: Dr. R. Elías).
Also the interaction of Boccardia proboscidea, an invader polychaetes with the ecosystem engineer of rocky shores are studied, with the reproductive strategy and populational dynamics of the invader polychaete (PICT 2014 – 2446 “Boccardia proboscidea, un poliqueto invasor en el Atlántico Sudoccidental: estado actual del conocimiento y perspectivas” (amount: 240.000 pesos. Dra. Garaffo, Responsible investigator, with Dra. Jaubet).
Taxonomy of polychaetes is under development on families Spionidae and Cirratulidae in particular.
For example, project “Sistemática y taxonomia de Cirratulidae australes (Polychaeta)” PICT 2013 – 1511. Amount: 407.160 pesos. Responsible investigator: Dr. R. Elías. (Felowship ANPCyT Lic. Andrea Saracho Bottero).
Periodically, Dr. Elias is hired for environmental assessment and base line using benthos.
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