The overall networking objective in CoastCarb is to join a multidisciplinary group of European and international researchers from South America, the US, and Canada with the strongest expertise in subAntarctic ecology, ecological modelling, ecosystem services (ESS), and stakeholder interactions. This group will compile a Data Information System (DIS) based on existing and newly acquired knowledge, model ongoing and future system changes, and assess the implications these changes have for nature and human societies. The area of knowledge integration spans a latitudinal gradient from Southern Patagonia to the Northern West Antarctic Peninsula separated by the 900 km divide of the Drake Passage. The interactions between gradually changing seasonal ecosystem dynamics, including coastal fast ice timing, light availability, pelagic bloom formation, and the extreme year to year variations in climate related (e.g. El Niño / La Niña events, sedimentation, ice scour frequency) and human induced stressors (e.g. changing nutrient supplies, coastal area eutrophication and hypoxia, ocean acidification, harmful algal bloom formation, exploitative acquaculture) alter benthic and pelagic coastal community structure, productivity, and carbon cycling capacities. We will address these changes by systematic data screening and process analysis (models and experimental testing) in fjords, bays and estuaries in which CoastCarb participants have conducted research at coastal stations or in selected fjord areas. Known knowledge gaps (including but not limited to: community mapping in Southern Patagonia and additional West Antarctic Peninsula locations, performance limits of certain keyspecies, genetic marker development for micro- and multicellular plankton) will be addressed by field and experimental work during secondments.
Owing to their high carbon burial rates from coastal erosion and sedimentation, fjords and estuaries are expected to play a more significant role in climate regulation than previously assumed. Hence, a major regulating ecosystem service of fjords is their role in coastal carbon burial, which slows carbon cycling and can potentially mitigate the effects of anthropogenic carbon emission. Former EU-funded activities (IMCOAST, IMCONet, VERSO) investigated the effects, frontline retreat of coastal glaciers and ice sheet disintegration have on coastal erosion processes and meltwater run-off. Substantial effects on pelagic primary and secondary production and on benthic community composition and resilience were observed. This in turn has direct consequences for trophic interactions, as well as for carbon and nutrient cycling and transient or permanent carbon burial rates in semi-enclosed coastal systems, with predictable shifts in key ecosystem functions and assotiated ecosystem services. Furthermore, knowledge of the distribution of productivity and biodiversity hotspots, especially those utilized by rare, endemic, or keystone species is fundamental to predicting changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functions as consequence of climate change and other interference. It is also instrumental for marine spatial planning, to manage human activities (e.g. fishing, tourism, off-shore energy and exploration) across outhern Patagonia and the West Antarctic Peninsula coastal zones by mapping ecosystem services with an embedded valuation of management structures. Pressure of aquaculture on nearshore ecosystems could, for instance, be reduced by offshore fish farming.