Marine sediments and seafloor nutrient cycling in a changing Arctic

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Earth Sciences


Sediments are key components of all marine ecosystems. In marine sediments, a dynamic interplay of biogeochemical processes is fuelled by the deposition of particulate material, as well as the diffusion of dissolved species from the overlying water column. This interplay transforms a substantial part of the deposited material and, thus, recycles nutrients, dissolved inorganic carbon, and alkalinity back into the water column. These benthic recycling fluxes can exert an important influence on pelagic primary production and ocean acidification.
Past research has indicated that the coupling between benthic and pelagic processes is particularly intense on Arctic shelves. The Arctic Ocean is subject to strong seasonal to long-term fluctuations in, among other factors, temperature and sea-ice extent and, so, deposition fluxes, bottom water conditions and bioturbation. Despite its importance for marine ecosystems, the benthic response to such strong seasonal and long-term fluctuations in the Arctic remains underexplored.
The aim of this project is to identify the most important controls on the timing and magnitude of benthic biogeochemical processes and fluxes under fluctuating environmental conditions in the Arctic Ocean on both seasonal and climate relevant timescales. The student will use Reaction-Transport Models (RTMs) to explore this challenge by conducting comprehensive sensitivity studies and by carrying out fully transient simulations and model inter-comparisons. The student will also be able to generate their own geochemical records using samples collected in the field from Arctic and other high-latitude field expeditions, in order to carry out a data-model comparison study.

Planned Impact

ChAOS has the potential to generate impact, beyond the academic community, that will benefit a number of groups or organisations:

The major deliverables of ChAOS will be of direct relevance to stakeholders with an interest in Arctic marine ecology and multiple use of the benthic environment. We will target beneficiaries at a range of levels, in particular 'hard to reach groups' from different local communities. Engagement with stakeholders and beneficiaries will be overseen by the module leaders, and co-ordinated fully by PI Maerz and Communication Officer Kate Lock (Leeds). We will hold an early impact meeting at the start of the grant for all consortium members, in order to co-ordinate our efforts across the entire research group.

At the community level, we will focus on reaching indigenous people, local councils, and regulatory bodies (in the UK and Arctic countries), who will benefit from a greater understanding of the sustainable and multiple use of the seafloor. On national levels, we will communicate directly with government organisations DEFRA and CEFAS to ensure our project outcomes directly inform political decision making in the UK. We will also engage with national organisations within the Arctic countries, including the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP, a working group of the Arctic Council); Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) and MAREANO. We will also forge links with the commercial and industrial sector - via official bodies both in the UK, such as the Renewable Energy Association, and in Arctic nations, such as working groups of the Arctic Council - and non-government organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund. We will form an Advisory Committee that consists of representatives from all of the government, industry and NGO stakeholders, which will meet twice yearly including a virtual link up to Arctic partners, and we will host a stakeholders' workshop towards the end of the project at the University of Leeds. We will encourage PhDs and postdocs to attend the NERC policy placement fellowship scheme.

We will engage with members of the public, in particular 'hard to reach' sectors of the community through exploring partnerships with dedicated organizations, such as the Active Learning Partnership. Public outreach will be led by a Communications Team who will focus on the broader importance of understanding future impacts on Arctic ecosystems. Firstly, we will involve project participants through direct communication with the public, through school visits and by participation on national and local events (e.g. Pint of Science, Soapbox Science, Royal Society events). Secondly, we will work with an experienced science journalist, Helen Scales, to produce a radio documentary and features for national and international magazines and websites, in order to broaden our audience further. We will build on successful programme sites (e.g. NERC Planet Earth) to promote our outreach products from the stakeholders' workshop and other meetings, and will publicise our events through social media.

All students, PDRAs and early career researchers across the consortium will be encouraged to undertake training in engagement and science communication activities, and take part in work shadowing of more established colleagues. The Communication Officer will work closely with each institute to monitor and ensure timely delivery of outreach, effective impact and assessment of feedback, assisted by the early career researchers on the project.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/P005942/1 01/02/2017 17/05/2022
1942899 Studentship NE/P005942/1 01/10/2017 18/12/2021 James Ward