Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

The coasts and shelf seas that surround us have been the focal point of human prosperity and well-being throughout our history and, consequently, have had a disproportionate effect on our culture. The societal importance of the shelf seas extends beyond food production to include biodiversity, carbon cycling and storage, waste disposal, nutrient cycling, recreation and renewable energy. Yet, as increasing proportions of the global population move closer to the coast, our seas have become progressively eroded by human activities, including overfishing, pollution, habitat disturbance and climate change. This is worrying because the condition of the seabed, biodiversity and human society are inextricably linked. Hence, there is an urgent need to understand the relative sensitivities of a range of shelf habitats so that human pressures can be managed more effectively to ensure the long-term sustainability of our seas and provision of societal benefits. Achieving these aims is not straightforward, as the capacity of the seabed to provide the goods and services we rely upon depends on the type of substrate (rock, gravel, sand, mud) and local conditions; some habitats are naturally dynamic and relatively insensitive to disturbance, while others are comparatively stable and vulnerable to change. This makes it very difficult to assess habitat sensitivities or make general statements about what benefits we can expect from our seas in the future.

Recently, NERC and DEFRA have initiated a major new research programme on Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry that will improve knowledge about these issues. In response to this call, we have assembled a consortium of leading scientists that includes microbiologists, ecologists, physical oceanographers, biogeochemists, mathematical modellers and policy advisors. With assistance from organisations like CEFAS, Marine Scotland and AFBI, they will carry out a series of research cruises around the UK that will map the sensitivity and status of seabed habitats based on their physical condition, the microbial and faunal communities that inhabit them, and the size and dynamics of the nitrogen and carbon pools found there. The latest marine technologies will measure the amount of mixing and flow rates just above the seabed, as well as detailed seabed topography. These measurements will allow better understanding of the physical processes responsible for movement and mixing of sediment, nutrient, and carbon. At the same time, cores will be retrieved containing the microbial and faunal communities and their activity and behaviour will be linked to specific biogeochemical responses. Highly specialised autonomous vehicles, called landers, will also measure nutrient concentrations and fluxes at the seabed. Components of the system can then be experimentally manipulated to mimic scenarios of change, such as changing hydrodynamics, disturbance or components of climate change. This will be achieved in the field by generating different flow regimes using a submerged flume or, in the laboratory, using intact sediment communities exposed to different levels of CO2, temperature and oxygen. By measuring the biogeochemical response and behaviour of the microbial and faunal communities to these changes, we will generate an understanding of what may happen if such changes did occur across our shelf seas.

We will use all of this information to assess the relative vulnerability of areas of the UK seabed by overlaying the observation and experimental results over maps of various human pressures, which will be of value to planners and policymakers. Mathematical models will test future scenarios of change, such as opening or closing vulnerable areas to fishing or anticipated changes in the factors that control nutrient and carbon stocks. This will be valuable in exploring different responses to external pressures and for deciding which management measures should be put in place to preserve our shelf seas for future generations

Planned Impact

Commercial private sector and the knowledge economy: new and innovative methodologies, equipment and techniques, and combined state-of-the-art technologies (>£2.3 million in-kind, see JeS) will assess what the primary physical and biogeochemical controls of shelf productivity are up to shelf sea scales. Since many interests rely on the marine environment, beneficiaries will be varied. By sharing expertise and knowledge, a world-leading manufacturer of microsensors and microscale instrumentation and an internationally recognized marine environmental data acquisition company will benefit from exploitable opportunities, e.g. new visualisation tools that enable holistic understanding of large-scale ecosystem processes.

Policy professionals, governmental and devolved governmental organisations: The importance of shelf seas to society extends beyond fisheries to wider issues, such as biodiversity, carbon cycling and storage, waste disposal, nutrient cycling, and renewable energy resources. Consortium expertise will contribute to these UK priority challenges. The UK Marine & Coastal Access Act (MCAA), UK Climate Change Act, EU Habitats Directive and EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) support sustainable use of the marine environment. They also support the UK vision for achieving 'clean, healthy, safe productive and biologically diverse ocean and seas' (UK Marine Science Strategy). We will provide a coherent framework for sound evidence based-science in support of these policy instruments and statutory requirements. For example, the MSFD aims to achieve Good Environmental Status in EU marine waters by 2020, but we lack understanding of the magnitude and synchronicity of change in SSEs. Our research will directly inform Descriptor 1 (biological diversity) and 6 (seabed integrity) for a wide range of sediment habitats over time, which is important because the determination of good environmental status may have to be adapted over time (addressed in Task 2) "in view of the dynamic nature of marine ecosystems and their natural variability, and given that the pressures and impacts on them may vary with the evolvement of different patterns of human activity and the impact of climate change" (MSFD). Our work will also inform environmental monitoring programmes: OSPARs Joint Assessment and Monitoring programme, the Eutrophication Monitoring Programme and The Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme (CSEMP, led by consortium member CEFAS). Task 1-3 complement the outcomes of CESEMP and provide scientific evidence to OSPAR. Similarly, experimental scenarios and modelling approaches will provide needed information for (i) the EU Water Framework Directive (the requirement for 'good chemical and ecological status' by 2015 does not account for climate change) and, (ii) the UK White Paper for MCAA (it is unclear how commitments to "look ahead at the predicted impacts of climate change on the marine environment, how marine activities will contribute towards it, and how they are affected by it" will be achieved). Finally, other EU instruments, such as the Habitats Directive (introduced in 1992), the EU Common Fisheries Policy (revised in 2002) and national legislation such as the UK MCAA and Scottish Marine Act, assume that removal (or control) of direct pressures will result in ecosystem recovery and/or species persistence. Our programme includes experimental scenarios and modelling approaches to provide further information on the vulnerability of SSEs in environmental futures under multiple pressures (Task 3). Our outputs will also help NERC meet its science theme challenges.

Public, wider community: active engagement with a variety of organisations is detailed in Pathways to Impact (PtI).

Skills & training: In addition to academic progression, early career researchers will gain experience and receive mentoring in running a large interdisciplinary programme, as well as training in communication skills and scientific methodology

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title ONCA Art Exhibition (13-27th Feb,2017) and science to art talk (23rd Feb, 2017) 
Description Sullied Seas' art exhibition was generated through collaborations with Mary Eighteen on our benthic biodiversity research. 104 local (Brighton) people engaged face-to-face with Mary Eighteen and Prof. Martin Solan during the Sullied Seas Art exhibition and talks. Though social media (Twitter), the activity around this public engagement event reached > 2.3K people. We used questionnaires during this engagement event, to (a) determine how we can disseminate our research in a more user-friendly way to the general public, (b) which avenues of art culture could we use to explain science, and (c) see how effective our research findings were through this science-art collaboration. Through this questionnaire we sourced several potential platforms to disseminate research in the future e.g., art-science festivals. We also generated collaborations with artists (e.g., fashion industry, cartoonists and sculptures artists) for future outreach events. Our questionnaire showed an interest and understanding in the science we disseminated and 100% of the people who were given a questionnaire signed up for further information on SSB's WP2 findings and future public engagement events. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This event increased the publics awareness (and even changed peoples attitudes) of the human impacts along the Shelf Seas; a few comments from the day. "Without a doubt this was hugely inspirational as a stimulus for art and how important our oceans our and how diverse it is"," I follow climate change issues but had not previously considered/learnt about sediments". 
URL https://onca.org.uk/whats-on/past/2017-2/mary-eighteen-sullied-seas/
 
Title Sullied Seas art exhibition 
Description Worked with the artist Mary Eighteen and did joint exhibition of science and art in Brighton 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Considerable public interest and followed by social media response 
URL http://www.maryeighteen.com/news/index.htm
 
Description Shelf sea processes are influenced by season, habitat type and assemblage composition.
Exploitation Route Good environmental status
Marine protected areas
Sectors Environment

URL http://www.uk-ssb.org/
 
Description Various public outreach events have engaged with the public. Initiated a education programme via Winchester Science Centre. Attended and gave evidence of All Party Parliament Group at Westminster, London.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Discussions with MP Kit Malthouse relaying how are research findings can provide pivotal information to support changes in current marine legislation (June 2017)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Discussions with various marine stakeholders at Coastal Futures, to outline where our research findings can fulfil their evidence requirements and current research priorities
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Influenced opinion and knowledge base.
 
Description Meeting with MP's Kit Malthouse and Richard Beynon to discuss research evidence for the Fisheries Bill (January 2018)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Policy Brief produced "Biochemistry, Macronutrient and Carbon Cycling in the Benthic layer
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description attendees:tbc(i) Number of Attendees for engagement presentationtbc(ii)Demographic of attendees:tbcMeeting with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Climate Change to discuss climate change and fishing impacts on benthic marine communities around the UK, and the implications this can have on our society in a
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description NERC capital opportunity (CNHS analyser)
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Strategic Environmental Science Capital Call (In-Situ Benthic Annular Flume)
Amount £175,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 06/2014
 
Title Benthic macrofaunal activity in Celtic Sea DY021 
Description Abundance, biomass and bioturbation activity of benthic organisms in the Celtic sea during cruise DY021 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No notable impacts yet. 
 
Title Benthic macrofaunal activity in Celtic Sea DY030 
Description Abundance, biomass and bioturbation activity of benthic organisms in the Celtic sea during cruise DY030 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No Impact as of yet 
 
Title Benthic macrofaunal activity in Celtic Sea DY034 
Description Abundance, biomass and bioturbation activity of benthic organisms in the Celtic sea during cruise DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No Impact as of yet. 
 
Title Benthic macrofaunal activity in Celtic Sea on DY008 
Description Abundance, biomass and bioturbation acitivity of benthic organisms in the Celtic Sea during cruise DY008 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No measured impact yet 
 
Title Benthic macrofaunal activity in Irish Sea 
Description Abundance, biomass and bioturbation activity of benthic organisms in the Irish Sea during Cruise PD20150623 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No measured impact yet 
 
Title Benthic oxygen uptake 
Description Oxygen profiling across benthic sediments during 4 research cruises: DY008, DY021, DY030, DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No measured impact yet 
 
Title Effect of climate change on benthic macrofaunal activity in Celtic Sea 
Description Impacts of climate change on the abundance, biomass and bioturbation activity of benthic organisms in the Celtic Sea during cruise DY008 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No impact as of yet 
 
Title Pore water nutrients 
Description Characteristics of pore water nutrients across 4 research cruises: DY008, DY021, DY030, DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No impact as of yet 
 
Title R code for extinction scenario generation 
Description The code allowing third parties to generate extinction scenarios for benthic invertebrate communities and assess how change sin species composition effects ecosystem properties 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None known 
URL http://www.nature.com/articles/srep43695
 
Title Sediment Oxygen/pH 
Description Sediment oxygen and pH profile across 4 research cruises; DY008, DY021, DY030 and DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No measured impact yet 
 
Title Sediment PSA 
Description Sediment profile characteristics during 4 cruises; DY008, DY021, DY030 and DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No measured impact yet 
 
Title Sediment nutrient fluxes 
Description Temporal variability in sediment processes across different sediment types during 4 research cruises: DY008, DY021, DY030, DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No Impact as of yet 
 
Title Submission to BODC 
Description Our datasets from the cruise were submitted to BODC, https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/46ecc183-c08d-2211-e053-6c86abc0d02c/ 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Fully documents and makes available data as required by NERC 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/46ecc183-c08d-2211-e053-6c86abc...
 
Title Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles DY008 
Description Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles during research cruise DY008 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact no measured impact yet 
 
Title Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles DY021 
Description Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles during research cruise DY021 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No impact measured yet 
 
Title Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles DY030 
Description Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles during research cruise DY030 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact no measured impact yet 
 
Title Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles DY034 
Description Suspended particulate matter from CTD bottles during research cruise DY034 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact no measured impact yet 
 
Description Placement at Cefas, Lowestoft 
Organisation Centre For Environment, Fisheries And Aquaculture Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Developed extinction scenario models and provided ecological theory
Collaborator Contribution Assisted with coding and numerical modelling
Impact Thomsen et al. paper (listed in publications), and PhD thesis for Matthias Thomsen
Start Year 2014
 
Description Attend and present work on modelling carbon burial at the Challenger 2018 meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A poster on benthic carbon modelling was presented. Discussions with PhD students on the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Brown Planet permanent display at Winchester Science Park 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Brown Planet represents a slice of the seafloor, similar to an enlarged sediment core. There are several burrows across the display, varying in size/depth with added simulation of shelf sea organisms burrowing into the sediment to represent variation in functional biodiversity across the sea floor. Some of these burrows are accessible for the visitors to enter into the display, with each tunnel again simulating different conditions. On the outside walls of the display there are 12 different modular exhibits to showcase biochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer. The display is immersive, so once the visitor enters this display they will experience a dark, damp atmosphere. Inside the display, there is an interactive central circular console with 10 different interfaces. Each one of these interfaces represents a different human activity on the seafloor, the extent of that activity can be manipulated by the visitor. The outcome will be highlighted through both positive and negative effects on ecology and society. Inbuilt into the display is an impact measurement tool, to enable us to quantify the level of reach achieved from this display and the level of understanding of the research displayed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description CF17 - SSB network with stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact CF17 networking event to discuss SSB outputs with relevant beneficiaries and stakeholders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Informal meeting with DEFRA to generate key Policy Questions for SSB 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Informal meeting to discuss key policy directives, incentives and questions relating to the SSB project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Provision of evidence base needed to support policy in shelf seas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Outlined the key knowledge gaps and evidence needs in relation to shelf sea biogeochemistry at meeting at DEFRA, London and planned to submit book proposal to Oxford university press.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Sullied Seas Exhibiton and Talks: Science meets art. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Sullied Seas' art exhibition was generated through WP2 SSB research. Mary Eighteen attended an internal WP2 SSB workshop (June, 2016) and used the research findings to disseminate the impacts that humans have on the oceans through the medium of fine art. Mary had a Solo exhibition of this artwork at ONCA art gallery during 13-27th February. During the exhibition, Prof Martin Solan joined Mary at ONCA to give a talk about SSB WP2 findings whilst explaining the importance of science-art collaborations when disseminating research findings to the general public.

104 local (Brighton) people engaged face-to-face with Mary eighteen and Prof. Martin Solan during the Sullied Seas Art exhibition and talks. Though social media (Twitter), the activity around this public engagement event reached > 2.3K people. We used questionnaires during this engagement event, to (i) determine how we can disseminate our research in a more user-friendly way to the general public, (ii) which avenues of art culture could we use to explain science, and (iii) see how effective our research findings were through this science-art collaboration. Through this questionnaire we sourced several potential platforms to disseminate research in the future e.g., art-science festivals. We also generated collaborations with artists (e.g., fashion industry, cartoonists and sculptures artists) for future outreach events. Our questionnaire showed an interest and understanding in the science we disseminated and 100% of the people who were given a questionnaire signed up for further information on SSB's WP2 findings and future public engagement events.

This event increased the publics awareness (and even changed peoples attitudes) of the human impacts along the Shelf Seas; a few comments from the day. "Without a doubt this was hugely inspirational as a stimulus for art and how important our oceans our and how diverse it is" , " I follow climate change issues but had not previously considered/learnt about sediments"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2017
URL https://www.southampton.ac.uk/blog/sussed-news/2017/02/22/sullied-seas/
 
Description Why getting dirty is good for all of us 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The article "why getting dirty is good for us all" used material from SSB project for the "Exploring Oceans" MOOC blog. The blog reached 4399 views over the 4 week course, with nation-wide geographical reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://moocs.southampton.ac.uk/oceans/2017/02/10/getting-dirty-good-us/