Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists

Apr 10, 2013
Ocean nutrients a key component of future change say scientists
Sampling blue water.

(Phys.org) —Variations in nutrient availability in the world's oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a multi-author review paper involving the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).

The paper, published this month in Nature Geoscience, reviews what we know about ocean nutrient patterns and interactions, and how they might be influenced by future climate change and other man-made factors. The authors also highlight how nutrient cycles influence climate by fuelling , hence keeping carbon dioxide (CO2) locked down in the ocean away from the atmosphere.

Dr Mark Moore from University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at NOCS, led the review. He said: "We aimed to get a group of international experts together in an attempt to define the current state of knowledge in this rapidly developing field."

, which support most , need certain resources to grow and reproduce – including nutrients. If there are not enough nutrients available, the growth or abundance of these can become restricted. This is known as 'nutrient limitation'.

"All organisms, from the smallest microbes, up to complex multi-cellular animals like us, require a variety of to survive," explained Dr Moore. "Somehow we all have to get these elements from our external environment."

Nutrients are therefore a key driver of microbial activity in the oceans. But at the same time, microorganisms play a major role in cycling nutrients and carbon throughout the vast ocean system – including drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore understanding ocean nutrient cycling is important for predicting future environmental change.

Dr Moore said: "Despite many decades of research, we still don't understand some of the complex interactions between marine microorganisms and nutrient cycles.

"Human activity has the potential to profoundly impact oceanic . A solid understanding of complex feedbacks in the system will be required if we are going to be able to predict the consequences of these changes."

The authors – from 22 different institutes – call for an interdisciplinary approach merging new analytical techniques, observations and models going forward to address current gaps in our understanding.

Explore further: Lava creeps toward road on Hawaii's Big Island

More information: Moore, C. et al. Nakatsuka, A. Oschlies, M. A. Saito, T. F. Thingstad, A. Tsuda and O. Ulloa (2013) Processes and patterns of oceanic nutrient limitation. Nature Geoscience, published online 31 March 2013. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1765

Related Stories

Climate change dictated by the ocean

Oct 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The influence of the world’s oceans over carbon dioxide levels and climate change is better understood thanks to researchers from the University of Canberra and The Australian National ...

Mapping nutrient distributions over the Atlantic Ocean

Nov 03, 2009

Large-scale distributions of two important nutrient pools - dissolved organic nitrogen and dissolved organic phosphorus (DON and DOP) have been systematically mapped for the first time over the Atlantic Ocean in a study led ...

Nutrients, viruses and the biological carbon pump

Jun 30, 2010

Adding nutrients to the sea could decrease viral infection rates among phytoplankton and enhance the efficiency of the biological pump, a means by which carbon is transferred from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, according ...

Ocean iron affects biological productivity: study

Mar 13, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of researchers has just published a new paper, lead authored by Boston University Professor of Earth Sciences Richard W. Murray, that provides compelling evidence from marine sediment ...

Recommended for you

Icelandic volcano sits on massive magma hot spot

Oct 24, 2014

Spectacular eruptions at Bárðarbunga volcano in central Iceland have been spewing lava continuously since Aug. 31. Massive amounts of erupting lava are connected to the destruction of supercontinents and ...

NASA sees Tropical Storm Ana still vigorous

Oct 24, 2014

NASA's TRMM satellite saw that Tropical Storm Ana was still generating moderate rainfall is it pulled away from Hawaii. The next day, NASA's Aqua satellite saw that wind shear was having an effect on the ...

User comments : 0