Three scientists on 10-week international ocean acidification investigation

09-29-2014

Three scientists from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences are in Gran Canaria, the second most populated island of the Canary Islands, for a re-run of an experiment that was thwarted by a severe storm there earlier this year. Senior Research Scientist Steve Archer, post doc Kerstin Suffrian and research techician Kevin Posman, will spend the next ten weeks working with a large German-led team from GEOMAR, Kiel, to test how marine plankton respond to changes in acidity and carbon dioxide concentrations in the Atlantic Ocean.

The experiment, KOSMOS GC, involves deploying nine large floating mesocosms, experimental water enclosures, in the ocean. The mesocosms, which hold the equivalent of 45 cubic meters or 45 tons each, will be adjusted to varying levels of acidity in an attempt to simulate ocean acidification over the next 100 years. The team will monitor how planktonic microbial communities in the mesocosms respond to the changing conditions. At one point they will also add nutrient-rich water from deep in the ocean to the mesocosms, to simulate the upwelling events common around the Canary Islands. Bigelow Laboratory's team will focus on how the microbial plankton response influences trace gases emissions in the ocean that play a role in atmospheric chemistry and climate.

"We've carried out similar experiments in the Arctic and North Sea and have observed significant changes in production of some of these climate-active trace gases as the ocean becomes more acidic," said Archer. "If successful, this will be the first information on how natural planktonic communities respond in the sub-tropical ocean, which cover a vast area. This is important because it will increases our ability to predict how the ocean will respond globally and how this will affect a changing atmosphere and climate.

Bigelow Laboratory will collaborate with modelers from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK and the Max Plank Institute of Meteorology, Germany to interpret its results and improve predictions of how the changing ocean will influence climate.

The team will be based at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands ([140]PLOCAN), a non-profit consortium dedicated to science and technology located in [141]Gran Canaria. The Bigelow Laboratory's research is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Senior Research Scientists Steve Archer, Paty Matrai, and Pete Countway. The major cost of KOSMO GC is borne by the BIOACID program, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany.

The expedition's progress will be reported on Twitter at @BigelowLab.

Photo credits: On home page: Mesocosms on dock prior to deployment. pKerstin Suffrian, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Below:Mesocosms in place off shore of Gran Canaria. Xabier Remirez, PLOCAN. News Sidebar