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Chilean kelp, Lessonia berteroana or Lessonia spicata. (Photo: Centro de Biotecnologia Dr. Daniel Alkalay Lowitt)

Chilean kelp restocking project in Atacama

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Friday, August 10, 2018, 00:50 (GMT + 9)

For more than a decade, the Algae Group of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) headquartered in Puerto Montt, has been developing research in Atacama to contribute to the knowledge on Chilean kelp with the purpose of developing a sustainable management of its populations.

In this context, the project "Chilean kelp restocking in Atacama", launched on Thursday in Portal del Inca, in the town of Caldera, was born as a result of the need to seek alternatives to sustain these populations of algae that experience very strong capture rate.

This initiative is financed with contributions from the Innovation Fund for the Competitiveness of Regional FIC Assignment of the Regional Government of Atacama to the Algae Laboratory of the UACh - Puerto Montt Headquarters.

In field experiences, developed by the UACh Puerto Montt research team, led by Dr. Renato Westermeier H., different repopulation methodologies have been tested, as demonstrated by other projects funded by the Atacama Regional Fund.

One of the most important findings has been the use of disc fixation of these plants, which, with different types of glues, are attached to the rocks, achieving growth similar to the plants of natural populations, which are fixed to rocks through their spores or reproductive structures.

These experiences began in Bahía Chasco with the giant kelp, known in the scientific literature as Macrocystis. In the case of the Chilean kelp, this research was carried out on the northern shore of Chañaral Bay, an area heavily contaminated as a result of mining and copper tailings. Using this methodology, these plants have been kept there for almost four years, sticking their discs to the substrate.

As a result of the success of the repopulation methodology, this project is developed in five places on the Atacama coast: Pan de Azúcar, Torres del Inca, Las Lisas, Zapatilla and Pajonales (Punta Cacho), where fishermen work together with/or kelp collectors.

San Cristóbal and Hydroculture companies of this region also collaborate in this project, who have offered their laboratories for "fattening" plants developed by farming them in the UACh Puerto Montt laboratories.

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