Our Group has been developing its activities since the year 2000 within the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP) facilities, as well as to actively participate in many research projects funded by INIDEP, CONICET, ANPCyT, and UNMDP.
Changes in composition, relative abundance and distribution of planktonic taxa and species in particular can significantly affect the functioning of marine ecosystems, since they propagate through trophic food webs affecting the biogeochemical cycles in the ocean. In the current context of global warming and climate change, these changes have an even higher relevance.
Therefore, the main goals of our research group are (i) to study the diversity of the several planktonic taxa in different sectors of the Argentine Sea; (ii) to analyze its temporal and spatial scales of variation and the effect of environmental factors upon this variability; and (iii) to evaluate the possible implications of such variations upon higher trophic levels. Within the zooplanktonic groups studied, crustaceans (copepods, cladocerans, hyperiid amphipods and euphausiids) are dominant and play a key role in fish food webs. In frontal areas, particularly, these groups form dense assemblages that constitute feeding and nursery grounds for fish and mollusks species.
It is worth noting that, since the beginning of the group up to present, several graduate and doctoral thesis have been finished. Moreover, the members of the group have been abroad to capacitate and specialize in their research lines. Human resources formation is currently going on.
To fulfill the above mentioned goals, several research lines are currently developing, including both classic and emerging methodologies:
(i) Diversity. Taxonomic identification of the different planktonic taxa by means of classic optical techniques. Application of molecular techniques to resolve taxonomic uncertainties. Determination of taxa assemblages, as well as recognition of key species in many pelagic ecosystems.
(ii) Time-series. Analysis of the components of planktonic communities and their variation in different spatio-temporal scales. Relationship with hydrological and climatic variables. Application of semi-automatic methods to identify, count and estimate biomass of zooplankton components.
(iii) Trophic interactions. Determination of key zooplanktonic species in the diet of larvae, juveniles and adult of fish of commercial interest. Analysis of gut contents and their relationship with available zooplankton prey in the field. Application of biochemical tools –lipids and fatty acids- to establish the nutritional status of predators and prey. Fish species of both current (Engraulis anchoita, Scomber japonicus and Merluccius hubbsi) and potential commercial interest are considered (Trachurus lathami).
(iv) Satellite oceanography. Analysis of temporal and spatial changes in environmental factors that might affect planktonic communities, by combining satellite (intensity, start and duration of phytoplankton blooms, sea surface temperature) and in situ data.
(v) Fish recruitment. Production of recruitment indices for fish of commercial interest.