Polar marine biology science in Portugal and Spain: Recent advances and future perspectives

José C. Xavier*, Andrés Barbosa, Susana Agustí, Laura Alonso-Sáez, Pedro Alvito, Julia Ameneiro, Conxita Ávila, Alexandra Baeta, João Canário, Raquel Carmona, Paulo Catry, Filipe Ceia, Melody S. Clark, Francisco J. Cristobo, Bruno Cruz, Carlos M. Duarte, Blanca Figuerola, Josep Maria Gili, Ana R. Gonçalves, Francisco J.L. GordilloJosé P. Granadeiro, Miguel Guerreiro, Enrique Isla, Carlos Jiménez, Pablo J. López-González, Sílvia Lourenço, João C. Marques, Elena Moreira, Ana M. Mota, Marta Nogueira, Laura Núñez-Pons, Covadonga Orejas, Vitor H. Paiva, Albert Palanques, Gareth A. Pearson, Carlos Pedrós-Alió, Álvaro L. Peña Cantero, Deborah M. Power, Jaime A. Ramos, Sergi Rossi, José Seco, Elisabet Sañé, Ester A. Serrão, Sergi Taboada, Sílvia Tavares, Núria Teixidó, Dolors Vaqué, Tiago Valente, Elsa Vázquez, Rui P. Vieira, Benjamin Viñegla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Polar marine ecosystems have global ecological and economic importance because of their unique biodiversity and their major role in climate processes and commercial fisheries, among others. Portugal and Spain have been highly active in a wide range of disciplines in marine biology of the Antarctic and the Arctic. The main aim of this paper is to provide a synopsis of some of the results and initiatives undertaken by Portuguese and Spanish polar teams within the field of marine sciences, particularly on benthic and pelagic biodiversity (species diversity and abundance, including microbial, molecular, physiological and chemical mechanisms in polar organisms), conservation and ecology of top predators (particularly penguins, albatrosses and seals), and pollutants and evolution of marine organisms associated with major issues such as climate change, ocean acidification and UV radiation effects. Both countries have focused their polar research more in the Antarctic than in the Arctic. Portugal and Spain should encourage research groups to continue increasing their collaborations with other countries and develop multi-disciplinary research projects, as well as to maintain highly active memberships within major organizations, such as the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), the International Arctic Science Council (IASC) and the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), and in international research projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-29
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Sea Research
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work was supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal) , including its Ciência program, by the Portuguese Polar Program PROPOLAR and by several grants, including the projects PTDC/MAR/099366/2008 and Pest-OE/MAR/UI0331/2011 . Spanish polar research was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación grants POL2006-06399 , CGL2007- 65453/ANT , CTM2010-17415/ANT CLG2007-28872-E/ANT “BOREAL” and REN2002-11565-E/ANT “CASES-2003/4” , grant 2003ACES 00029 from DURSI, Generalitat de Catalunya , TEMPANO ( REN2001-0588/ANT ) to Dolors Vaqué; ESEPAC ( ANT97-0273 ) to Susana Agusti, ICEPOS ( REN2002-04165-C03-02/ANT ), ATOS (2006–2009) POL2006-00550/CTM to Carlos M. Duarte; and Arctic Tipping Points (ATP , contract # 226248 ) from the European Union to Paul F. Wassmann, BREDDIES Project ( REN2001-2650/ANT ), COUPLING Project ( CTM2008-06343-C02-02 ) sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology , Xunta de Galicia-FEDER ( 2010/87 ) by the Consellería de Educación, Xunta de Galicia ( CTM2009-11128ANT ) funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación of Spain and the Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER) , projects CGL2007-64149/ANT and CTM2011-24007 , projects REN2001-5004/ANT , CGL2004-01348 , POL2006-05175 , CGL2007-60369 , CTM2009-08154-E and CTM2011-24427 and the European Development Regional Fund (that contributed to the International Polar Year project Birdhealth and PINGUCLIM project).

Funding Information:
The polar regions are recognized as being geopolitically and economically important and extremely vulnerable to current and projected climate change ( Anisimov et al., 2007 ). It is likely that the physical changes already observed have altered carbon, nutrient and contaminant cycles through both biological and chemical mechanisms ( Macdonnald et al., 2005 ). Since contaminants enter global systems through exchanges between air, water, and solids, the physical and chemical effects of those changes will clearly result in major climate interactions ( Beyer and Matthies, 2001 ). The Portuguese research group on Environmental Chemistry has been working in this area since 2008 via collaborations between Dr. Laurier Poissant (Environment Canada) and the Portuguese PROPOLAR program. Three field campaigns have been carried out so far. Two of these were in the Canadian sub-Arctic (Kuujjuarapic-Whapmagoostui and Umiujaq) funded by IPY CiCAT and COBRA projects. The main goals were to study carbon, nutrient and contaminant fate, transport and speciation during ice melt season. The impact of the melting permafrost (e.g. thermo-karst ponds) on the surrounding aquatic ecosystems was also a key issue in the research goals of the group. In 2011, the team has also been involved in the Project CONTANTARC funded by the Fundação para Ciência e Tecnologia. The goals of CONTANTARC were similar to the above ones but the fieldwork took place on Deception Island at the Antarctic Peninsula. CONTANTARC 2 is now underway with a sampling campaign planned for the beginning of 2013 at King George Island also at the Antarctic Peninsula.

Funding Information:
The research described here was mainly funded by the Portuguese and Spanish Ministries of Science and by the European Union . We would like to thank Angel Borja for their organization of the SIEBM conference in San Sebastian and all colleagues that were actively involved in conducting marine polar research in Portugal and Spain, including those that reviewed drafts of the manuscript. We also acknowledge Ana Quartin and Sónia Mendes da Silva of the Polar Office of the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, the captain and crew of the CCGS Amundsen for their help during cruises CASES and IPY-CFL, L. Fortier and D. Barber and all the scientists who participated and helped on board, W. Arntz for participating in cruises in the R/V Polarstern, R/V Hesperides (Spain), and R/V Jan Mayen (Univ. Trömso, Norway) and having access to experimental facilities at Svalbard University, and Christian Wiencke and the Alfred Wegener Institut for polar and marine research collaborative work. We also thank the logistic support of the Marine Technology Unit (CSIC), polar ship Las Palmas, polar ship Hesperides, Spanish Antarctic base Gabriel de Castilla, Spanish Antarctic base Juan Carlos I, Byers international Refuge, Argentinean Antarctic base Carlini, Spanish Polar Committee and the Argentinean Antarctic Institute.

Funding Information:
The first partial census of the Falklands population of black-browed albatrosses took place in the 1980s, and some ecological studies were then started, but until recently, very little information was known regarding the demography of this population. In 2003, the first long-term demographic study of black-browed albatrosses in the Falklands was initiated by the team of Paulo Catry. The research is based on New Island (a private reserve) and financial support has been obtained mostly from the Falkland Islands Government, the New Island Conservation Trust and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portugal).


  • Antarctic
  • Arctic
  • Marine biology
  • Polar science
  • Portugal
  • Spain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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