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 from the sea-surface to the sea-floor. We investigate processes that transform Carbon and nutrients as these are transported from land to sea and across the sea-air interface.

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 ocean acidification across the Atlantic Ocean over the last 20 years; 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

Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry research programme: biogeochemistry
Completed

Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry research programme: biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer

Contact: Professor Steve Widdicombe

The shelf seas are of major importance to society, providing a diverse range of goods, such as fisheries, renewable energy, transport and services...

Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry research programme: modelling
Completed

Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry research programme: modelling

Contact: Professor Icarus Allen

The shelf seas are of major importance to society, providing a diverse range of goods, such as fisheries, renewable energy, transport and services...

CAMPUS

Combining Autonomous observations and Models for Predicting and Understanding Shelf seas

Contact: Professor Icarus Allen

CAMPUS is a three-year project (2018–2012), funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, combining state-of-the-art computer modelling...

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Selected key publications

Dall'Olmo, G; Dingle, J; Polimene, L, Brewin, RJW; Claustre, H. 2016. Substantial energy input to the mesopelagic ecosystem from the seasonal mixed-layer pump. Nature Geoscience, 9(11), 820-823.

Kitidis, V; Brown, I; Hardman-Mountford, N; Lefevre, N. 2017. Surface ocean carbon dioxide during the Atlantic Meridional Transect (1995-2013); evidence of ocean acidification. Progress in Oceanography, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2016.1008.1005.

Kitidis, V; Tait, K; Nunes, J; Brown, I; Woodward, EMS; Harris, C; Sabadel, AJM;. Sivyer, DB; Silburn, B; Kroger, S. 2017. Seasonal benthic nitrogen cycling in a temperate shelf sea: the Celtic Sea. Biogeochemistry, 135(1-2), 103-119.

Related recent publications

  1. Davis, C; Blackbird, S; Wolff, GA; Sharples, J; Woodward, EMS ; Mahaffey, C. 2018 Seasonal organic matter dynamics in a temperate shelf sea. Progress in Oceanography. 10.1016/j.pocean.2018.02.021
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  2. Humphreys, MP; Achterberg, EP; Hopkins, J; Chowdhury, MZH; Griffiths, AM; Hartman, SE; Hull, T; Smilenova, A; Wihsgott, J; Woodward, EMS ; Moore, CM. 2018 Mechanisms for a nutrient-conserving carbon pump in a seasonally stratified, temperate continental shelf sea. Progress in Oceanography. 10.1016/j.pocean2018.05.001
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  3. Atkinson, A. 2016 Chapter 5 Feeding and Food Processing in Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba Dana). In: Siegel, V, (ed.) Biology and Ecology of Antarctic krill. Switzerland, Springer, 175-224, 441pp. (Advances in Polar Ecology).
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  4. 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
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  5. 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
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