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Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists

Date:
April 10, 2013
Source:
National Oceanography Centre
Summary:
Variations in nutrient availability in the world’s oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a new review paper.

Oceanographic sampling equipment is shown being lowered into clear blue open ocean water. The clarity of the water is a consequence of low nutrient availability restricting the amount of planktonic microbes. Credit: Elizabeth Sargent, NOCS
Credit: Elizabeth Sargent, NOCS

Variations in nutrient availability in the world's oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).

The paper, published this month in Nature Geoscience, reviews what we know about ocean nutrient patterns and interactions, and how they might be influenced by future climate change and other human-made factors. The authors also highlight how nutrient cycles influence climate by fuelling biological production, hence keeping carbon dioxide (CO2) locked down in the ocean away from the atmosphere.

Dr Mark Moore from University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at NOCS, led the review. He said: "We aimed to get a group of international experts together in an attempt to define the current state of knowledge in this rapidly developing field."

Marine algae, which support most marine ecosystems, need certain resources to grow and reproduce -- including nutrients. If there are not enough nutrients available, the growth or abundance of these microscopic plants can become restricted. This is known as 'nutrient limitation'.

"All organisms, from the smallest microbes, up to complex multi-cellular animals like us, require a variety of chemical elements to survive," explained Dr Moore. "Somehow we all have to get these elements from our external environment."

Nutrients are therefore a key driver of microbial activity in the oceans. But at the same time, microorganisms play a major role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the vast ocean system -- including drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore understanding ocean nutrient cycling is important for predicting future environmental change.

Dr Moore said: "Despite many decades of research, we still don't understand some of the complex interactions between marine microorganisms and nutrient cycles.

"Human activity has the potential to profoundly impact oceanic nutrient cycles. A solid understanding of complex feedbacks in the system will be required if we are going to be able to predict the consequences of these changes."

The authors -- from 22 different institutes -- call for an interdisciplinary approach merging new analytical techniques, observations and models going forward to address current gaps in our understanding.

The review resulted from a workshop, hosted at NOCS, as part of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (IGBP-SCOR) funded Fast Track Initiative on Upper Ocean Nutrient Limitation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. M. Moore, M. M. Mills, K. R. Arrigo, I. Berman-Frank, L. Bopp, P. W. Boyd, E. D. Galbraith, R. J. Geider, C. Guieu, S. L. Jaccard, T. D. Jickells, J. La Roche, T. M. Lenton, N. M. Mahowald, E. Mara๑๓n, I. Marinov, J. K. Moore, T. Nakatsuka, A. Oschlies, M. A. Saito, T. F. Thingstad, A. Tsuda, O. Ulloa. Processes and patterns of oceanic nutrient limitation. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1765

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre. "Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410082210.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre. (2013, April 10). Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410082210.htm
National Oceanography Centre. "Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410082210.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

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