Carbon and nutrient cycles

The ocean plays a dominant role in the Earth’s carbon and nutrient cycles.  These cycles are intrinsically linked together and sustain life in the ocean and form a key part of our climate system.

Our long and internationally recognized track record in biogeochemical cycling aims to quantify key processes in the cycling of life sustaining elements in the upper ocean and coastal seas. We use an interdisciplinary approach to study the cycling of carbon and nutrients at interface of biology, chemistry and physics.

Recent research has concentrated on the pathways, reactions and transformations of nitrogen, carbon and sulphur through the marine biogeochemical system. Particular highlights have been: quantifying the impacts of ocean acidification on biogeochemical cycles; quantifying the impacts of multiple stressors upon micro-organisms in the surface ocean, and investigating the impact of variable ratios of micro-nutrients (e.g. iron and zinc) to macro-nutrients (e.g. nitrate and phosphate) on ocean productivity.

We are also investigating the cycling of organic compounds, and our research in this area has focused on the large and complex dissolved organic fraction within seawater and its role in providing microbes with energy, nitrogen and sulphur. Until recently our understanding of the sources, sinks and reaction pathways of ubiquitous organic compounds, such as methanol, osmolytes containing nitrogen, acetone and acetaldehyde was very limited. However, research campaigns studying seasonal cycles and ocean basin variability have allowed us to start unravelling their significance in meeting organic carbon requirements and supporting microbial metabolic processes.

Making a difference

A thorough understanding of carbon and nutrient cycles is essential to enable us to understand how the ocean functions and may respond to future environmental and climate change and will help to improve predictive tools for policy makers and other stakeholders.

Projects

Carbon/Nutrient Dynamics and Fluxes of the Shelf System (CANDYFLOSS)
Completed

Carbon/Nutrient Dynamics and Fluxes of the Shelf System (CANDYFLOSS)

Contact: Dr Andy Rees

The shelf seas are extensive shallow seas which surround large continental land masses with significant importance to people and the Earth system...

National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) - Carbon Cycles
Completed

National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) - Carbon Cycles

Contact: Professor Icarus Allen

The goal of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) project is to understand physical and biological processes involving the carbon cycle,...

Pools of Carbon in the Ocean project (POCO)
Completed

Pools of Carbon in the Ocean project (POCO)

Contact: Dr Shubha Sathyendranath

The Pools of Carbon in the Ocean project (POCO) will explore satellite algorithms to quantify the particulate, and possibly dissolved, pools of...

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Related publications

  1. Thompson, CEL; Silburn, B; Williams, ME; Hull, T; Sivyer, D; Amoudry, LO; Widdicombe, S; Ingels, J; Carnovale, G; McNeill, CL; Hale, R; Marchais, CL; Hicks, N; Smith, HEK; Klar, JK; Hiddink, JG; Kowalik, J; Kitidis, V; Reynolds, S; Woodward, EMS; Tait, K; Homoky, WB; Kröger, S; Bolam, S; Godbold, JA; Aldridge, J; Mayor, DJ; Benoist, NMA; Bett, BJ; Morris, K.J; Parker, ER; Ruhl, HA; Statham, PJ; Solan, M. 2017 An approach for the identification of exemplar sites for scaling up targeted field observations of benthic biogeochemistry in heterogeneous environments. Biogeochemistry, 135 (1-2). 1-34. 10.1007/s10533-017-0366-1
    View publication

  2. Aldridge, JN; Lessin, G; Amoudry, LO; Hicks, N; Hull, T; Klar, JK; Kitidis, V; McNeill, CL; Ingels, J; Parker, ER; Silburn, B; Silva, T; Sivyer, DB; Smith, HEK; Widdicombe, S; Woodward, EMS; Van der Molen, J; Garcia, L; Kröger, S. 2017 Comparing benthic biogeochemistry at a sandy and a muddy site in the Celtic Sea using a model and observations [in special issue: Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the shelf sea benthos] Biogeochemistry, 135 (1-2). 155-182. 10.1007/s10533-017-0367-0
    View publication

  3. Polimene, L; Clark, DR; Kimmance, SA; McCormack, PJ. 2017 A substantial fraction of phytoplankton-derived DON is resistant to degradation by a metabolically versatile, widely distributed marine bacterium. PlosOne, N/A (N/A). 10.1371/journal.pone.0171391
    View publication

  4. Le Quéré, C; Buitenhuis, ET; Moriarty, R; Alvain, S; Aumont, O; Bopp, L; Chollet, S; Enright, C; Franklin, DJ; Geider, RJ; Harrison, SP; Hirst, AG; Larsen, S; Legendre, L; Platt, T; Prentice, IC; Rivkin, RB; Sailley, SF; Sathyendranath, S; Stephens, N; Vogt, M; Vallina, SM. 2016 Role of zooplankton dynamics for Southern Ocean phytoplankton biomass and global biogeochemical cycles. Biogeosciences, 13 (14). 4111-4133. 10.5194/bg-13-4111-2016
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  5. Bratkič, A; Vahčič, M; Kotnik, J; Kristina Obu, V; Begu, E; Woodward, EMS; Horvat, M. 2016 Mercury presence and speciation in the South Atlantic Ocean along the 40°S transect. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 30. 105-119. 10.1002/2015GB005275
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