Integrative Modelling for Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre
Department Name: Science and Technology


Shelf seas are of major societal importance providing a diverse range of goods (e.g. fisheries, renewable energy, transport) and services (e.g. carbon and nutrient cycling and biodiversity). At the same time they are under enormous pressures from man's activities which may have significant impact on the basic function of such systems. For example climate change will lead to large scale changes in stratification and temperature, while increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will lead to acidification of the oceans with significant impacts on ocean biogeochemistry. Simultaneously combinations of direct human activities (e.g. fishing, and eutrophication) directly impact the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrients.

Our understanding of the biogeochemistry of the shelf seas is limited and many processes are poorly understood, in particular the biogeochemical budgets of carbon and nutrients. The key questions include is the UK continental shelf a source or sink for carbon and nitrogen remain unanswered. In addition there are gaps in our knowledge of some of the key physical, chemical and biological controls on biogeochemical cycles. By synthesising empirical knowledge into quantitative descriptions, computer models allow scientists to investigate the functioning of, and interactions between, ecology, biogeochemistry, anthropogenic pressures and climate.

The overarching scientific goal is to enhance our capacity to assess the controls on biogeochemical cycling and hence to quantify with uncertainties the budgets of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and silicon including their response to climate, natural variability and anthropogenic stress. The underpinning strategic goal is to develop a new shelf seas biogeochemical model system, coupled to a state of the art physical model, capable of predicting regional impacts of environmental change from days to decades.

We will establish a new common model version for the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model (ERSEM), drawing from the combined expertise of the partners. Exploiting, existing data, and new biogeochemical process understanding generated by the SSB program we will improve existing process models and develop new ones as appropriate, for both the physical and biological models. We will develop collaborations with the observational and experimentally focussed scientists working on the entire SSB programme in order to make best use of the available expertise. This will form the basis of the new community model system which will be supported and made freely available to the wider UK and international research communities. The resultant model will be used to make simulations of past present and potential future sates of the biogeochemistry of the UK shelf.

In summary, the project will provide new modelling tools which provide estimates of crucial information to help resolve key scientific questions as well as provide a better understanding of the functioning of the shelf seas as they respond to global change and direct anthropogenic pressures. The combination of predictive tools and new knowledge will underpin the development and implementation of marine policy and the implementation of marine forecast systems.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Ministry of Defence (MoD)
EU member states

Marine Scotland
Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP)
Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
National Centre for Ocean Forecasting (NCOF)
The international climate evidence community (embodied by the IPCC)

Commercial private sector
Environmental Consultancies

Wider public:
UK and international general public and relevant NGOs

How will they benefit from this research?

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) (MSFD) requires EC member states to develop strategies to achieve a healthy marine environment and make ecosystems more resilient to climate change in all European marine waters by 2020 at the latest. The strategies must contain a detailed assessment of the state of the environment, a definition of "Good Environmental Status" (GES) at regional level and the establishment of clear environmental targets and monitoring programmes. Defra, Marine Scotland and AFBI are responsible for the implementation of the MSFD in UK and will benefit from improved knowledge and predictive skill for key indicators of the state of the marine environment. In addition by addressing productivity at the lower trophic levels of the marine food web, including forecasting to century-scales, our research may assist the development of marine fisheries policy and approaches for working towards an ecosystem-focused approach to marine resource management. Cefas are key to this engagement, having for many years advised and Defra (and more recently the MMO) on the environmental status of UK waters and are advising on the implementation of the MSFD and the CFP in England and Wales. DECC and the international climate community (embodied by the IPCC) will benefit through our rigorous investigation and evaluation of shelf seas processes, through engagement with the UK Met Office (UKMO), continuing a close working relationship and the use of a common ocean model, ERSEM-NEMO. This provides the underlying code for operational oceanography (open-ocean and shelf seas) at UKMO, who provide data products to the MOD and to GMES.

Wealth Creation
The European Earth observation program GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) provides high quality environmental information through the development of a marine monitoring service. Crucially the GMES core service provides regular and systematic reference information on the state of the oceans and regional seas, which is free at the point of use for businesses to exploit commercially. The UKMO run the UK operational ecosystem models delivering high quality data products to the marine core service thought the FP7 MyOCEAN data portal. The model developments proposed will be fed through to the UKMO operational model systems thus improving the range and quality of core service data products.

Wider public
We will publicise our research through:
A project website
Engagement with the media as appropriate
Programme wide outreach activities as they are developed.
Online summaries of the project and key findings disseminated to key interested parties or events
Description Supporting the development of the Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service providing operational oceanographic products to a wide range of stakeholders.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Economic