Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 132–143 | Cite as

Hydrographic and Biological Impacts of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in a Patagonian Fjord

  • Erika MeerhoffEmail author
  • Leonardo R. Castro
  • Fabián J. Tapia
  • Iván Pérez-Santos


Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in Northern Patagonian Ice Field affecting the Baker River basin have increased their frequency in recent years. To evaluate the impact of a GLOF in the hydrography and biological components of the plankton in the Baker Fjord, we assessed the relative contributions of terrigenous versus marine plankton carbon sources to the particulate organic matter (POM) in the fjord before and after a GLOF in the austral summer 2014. We also evaluated whether terrestrial carbon brought into the fjord by the river may reach higher trophic levels via a deposit-feeding organism the juvenile pelagic Munida gregaria. Over a 10-day period, hydrographic profiles, water samples for POM, and zooplankton samples were collected daily from three stations and two depths along the fjord’s inner section. Samples of suspended POM and tissue from M. gregaria were analyzed for stable-isotope composition of carbon (δ13C). The GLOF arrival produced a thermal front in the fjord, followed by an oscillation of the pycnocline; an abrupt increase in the total organic carbon content of POM, which was attributed to terrestrial input; and a concurrent peak in the abundance of M. gregaria, suggesting an aggregation response to the GLOF. Understanding GLOF effects on local hydrography, productivity, and food web structure provides valuable insight on the potential responses of fjord ecosystems in general to climate change-induced variability. Given present climatic trends in high-latitude zones, more frequent GLOFs might be expected in Patagonian fjords and channels as well as in other high-latitude basins.


GLOF Fjord Mixing Squat lobster Stable isotope Trophic level 



We thank Eduardo Escalona, Aldo Barba, and Rodrigo Mansilla for their support with the CTD, zooplankton sampling, and cruises conduction. Jorge Henriquez also collaborated with ADCP deployment.

Funding Information

Financial support for this study came from the COPAS Sur-Austral Program (CONICYT Grant PFB-31, University of Concepción). LC, IP-S, and FT were funded by the COPAS Sur-Austral BASAL Center AFB17006. LC was also funded by the IDEAL FONDAP Center No. 15150003. EM acknowledges the support from the Postdoctoral-FONDECYT/Chile 3150419. IP-S was also funded by the CONICYT FONDECYT Grant 11140161.


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© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de OceanografíaUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  2. 2.Programa COPAS Sur-AustralUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  3. 3.Unidad de Ciencias del Mar (UNDECIMAR), Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  4. 4.Centro de Investigaciones de Altas Latitudes (IDEAL)Universidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  5. 5.Universidad de los LagosPuerto MonttChile

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