School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Projects

UKSOLAS: Joint SOLAS Bergen mesocosm experiment

Overview

We combined expertise in the microbiology of the sea surface microlayer (SML) and air-sea gas exchange to examine SML microbiology and trace gas exchange during a controlled phytoplankton bloom, when several important trace gases were produced and/or consumed microbially.  Scientific outcomes informed several UKSOLAS projects, enabling us to better define the importance of microbes in the transfer of climatically important gases from the oceans to the atmosphere, a central aim of UKSOLAS.

Project description

The project unified several pre-existing NERC UKSOLAS projects concerned with the microbial production and consumption of climatically active atmospheric trace gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, dimethylsulfide, methyl halides) in the sea surface microlayer (SML), a region at the air-sea interface that is only tens of microns thick but which has unique biological, chemical and physical properties.  

All gases must pass through the SML during ocean-atmosphere exchange; hence microbes in the SML that both consume and produce trace gases may exert major controls on their biogeochemical cycles.  Exploiting our existing expertise in SML microbiology and in air-sea gas exchange, and using carefully defined experimental conditions (Bergen Mesocosm Facility, Norway), we directly addressed hitherto poorly understood processes regulating SML microbial activity.

We specifically examined SML microbiology, chemistry and trace gas exchange during a controlled phytoplankton bloom, when several important trace gases were produced and/or consumed microbially.  This cannot easily be achieved on ocean-going cruises because the unpredictability of weather and sampling regimes often precludes following a unified approach to sampling and measurement.  

Scientific outcomes informed several UKSOLAS projects, enabling us to better define the importance of microbes in the transfer of climatically important gases from the oceans to the atmosphere, a central aim of UKSOLAS