Biogeochemical Cycling of Carbon and Nutrients in Irish Marine and Estuarine Waters


Marine Institute (co-funded with the Environmental Protection Agency)

Biogeochemical Cycling of Carbon and Nutrients in Irish Marine and Estuarine Waters

McGrath Triona

National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG)

Earth & Ocean Sciences


SRIA Themes:

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The oceans absorb approximately one-third of the carbon emissions released to the atmosphere as a result of human activities. Ocean acidification (OA) is the lowering of pH and concentration of carbonate ions in seawater due to increasing atmospheric CO2. Organisms that incorporate CaCO3 into their shells and tissues, including corals, calcareous algae, echinoderms and shellfish, find it more difficult to produce their shells in a more acidic ocean. The North Atlantic is particularly susceptible to OA due to newly ventilated deep water along with cool temperatures. OA is occurring at an unprecedented rate and research is therefore needed to understand the changing ocean chemistry and potential impacts on marine ecosystems. The main objectives of this project are to support ongoing winter time series of nutrient and carbonate chemistry in Irish coastal, shelf and offshore waters to determine how the Irish marine environment is changing with time. Rates of acidification and levels of anthropogenic carbon will be determined in the Rockall Trough, an important oceanographic region ocean-climate research. The project also aims to describe the spatial and temporal evolution of the CO2 system in Irish estuaries and coastal waters to determine if these areas are sources or sinks of atmospheric CO2. New carbonate data will be supported by existing physical and chemical datasets held by the MI and the EPA and will help to predict the potential impacts of OA on Irish marine ecosystems, including the Irish shellfish industry. Finally, a desk study on transient tracers in the ocean will generate information on the current techniques and approaches for determining water mass ages that could be applied in future offshore oceanographic surveys. This will not only increase our understanding of circulation in the region, it will allow us to calculate the concentration of anthropogenic carbon in intermediate and deep water masses.

Ocean acidification; Monitoring; Climate change; Anthropogenic carbon