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N-OSmolytes Across the Surface Southern Ocean: Environmental Drivers and Bioinformatics

Polar ocean. Image courtesy of Dreamstime

Completed project

Project start: February 2017  |  Project end: January 2020
Funder: NERC
Principal Investigator: Dr Ruth Airs
Other participants from PML: Dr Luca Polimene, Dr Rachael Beale, Dr Ruth Airs

Marine organisms accumulate osmolytes in response to stress and release them when environmental conditions change due to viral attack, grazing or change of salinity. These released osmolytes serve as essential nutrients for marine microorganisms.

Degradation of osmolytes by microorganisms is of great environmental importance as they release climate active gases into the atmosphere. Nitrogenous osmolytes also represent a significant pool of carbon, nitrogen and energy for marine microorganisms.

Currently there is very little understanding these processes in the Southern Ocean, even though it is a crucial component of the Earth’s climate system, and is an ideal region to study ocean-atmosphere connections because of its isolation from continental emissions and the strong circumpolar atmospheric circulation, rendering its air pristine.

NOSASSO will address this knowledge gap by participating in the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition, collecting samples and data around the entire Southern Ocean, to build an overall picture of the importance of these organic nitrogen compounds in the Southern Ocean.