On August 20th 2015 the new IDEAL Research Center was awarded funding, following an extensive international review and tight competition against other significant proposals. IDEAL is the acronym for the Centro de Investigación: Dinámica de Ecosistemas marinos de Altas Latitudes, or “Research Center: Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems.” This new Research Centre will address priority areas for Chile. IDEAL is financed by CONICYT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología – Chile), while Antarctic activities are supported by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACh).
The IDEAL Centre will play a major role in studying ecosystem-level impacts from climate change and human pressure on Antarctic and Subantarctic ecosystems off Southern Chile and the Antarctic Peninsula. The Centre will bring together scientists from 6 Chilean Institutions – Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh, the sponsoring institution), Universidad de Concepción (UdeC), Centre for Quaternary Studies (CEQUA), the Patagonian Ecosystem Research Center (CIEP), the Center for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones CEAZA and the INACh. The center will also draw on significant collaboration from senior scientists from the Alfred-Wegener Institute – Helmholtz Center - for Polar and Marine Research (AWI-Germany), Scripps-USA, the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography (CCPO-USA), and the Korean Polar Research Institute (KOPRI-Korea). The IDEAL Centre is a partner of the SOOS initiative.
The IDEAL Development Plan identifies two strategic geographical areas: the Chilean Southern Patagonia (CSP) and the Antarctic Peninsula (AP). These areas are regions facing relevant threats due to their vulnerability under a scenario of exacerbated global warming and anthropogenic impact. Important consequences include strong impacts in regional and local climate regimes increasing melting and glacier runoff, generating unknown shifts in key species (including species of economical importance) and in turn, changes in ecosystems structure and functioning. As Dr. Humberto González, Director of IDEAL Centre, points out “the IDEAL Center, together with our international scientific partners, has a strong commitment to the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic regions, where multiple stakeholders (from educational, productive, governmental, environmental sectors) are waiting for relevant scientific knowledge to cope with anthropogenic and natural threats.”
A major challenge for IDEAL will be integrating information from environment, individuals, community and ecosystem levels into a comprehensive framework for assessing future impacts from climate and more direct human pressures. This will be achieved through an interdisciplinary modeling task group.
The IDEAL Centre will open its headquarters in early 2016.