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

Biological cycling of N-osmolytes in the surface ocean (N-osmolytes)
Completed

Biological cycling of N-osmolytes in the surface ocean (N-osmolytes)

Contact: Dr Ruth Airs

In the ocean, nitrogen-containing compounds are thought to be an important part of the soup of compounds that affect cloud formation, and therefore...

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...

|< <  1 2 3   > >|

You may be interested in...

News

New modelling tool to enhance global understanding

Open access model allows scientists to predict climate and other anthropogenically influenced environmental changes.

News

Zooplankton unlock a limiting nutrient for ocean productivity

Scientists have discovered that Antarctic krill – a tiny shrimp-like crustacean – plays a key role in fertilising the Southern Ocean with iron, which stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, the microscopic plants at the base of the marine food web. 

News

Plastic pollution threatens one of the ocean’s key inhabitants

Microscopic plastic pollution, which is present throughout the world’s seas, could affect the feeding habits of one of the ocean's key inhabitants – the copepod; a tiny animal with a highly important role within marine food webs.

|< <  1 2 3   > >|

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. Roemmich, D; Alford, MH; Claustre, H; Johnson, K; King, B; Moum, J; Oke, P; Owens, WB; Pouliquen, S; Purkey, S; Scanderbeg, M; Suga, T; Wijffels, S; Zilberman, N; Bakker, D; Baringer, M; Belbeoch, M; Bittig, HC; Boss, E; Calil, P; Carse, F; Carval, T; Chai, F; Conchubhair, DÓ; d’Ortenzio, F; Dall’Olmo, G; Desbruyeres, D; Fennel, K; Fer, I; Ferrari, R; Forget, G; Freeland, H; Fujiki, T; Gehlen, M; Greenan, B; Hallberg, R; Hibiya, T; Hosoda, S; Jayne, S; Jochum, M; Johnson, GC; Kang, K; Kolodziejczyk, N; Körtzinger, A; Traon, PL; Lenn, YD; Maze, G; Mork, KA; Morris, T; Nagai, T; Nash, J; Garabato, AN; Olsen, A; Pattabhi, RR; Prakash, S; Riser, S; Schmechtig, C; Schmid, C; Shroyer, E; Sterl, A; Sutton, P; Talley, L; Tanhua, T; Thierry, V; Thomalla, S; Toole, J; Troisi, A; Trull, TW; Turton, J; Velez-Belchi, PJ; Walczowski, W; Wang, H; Wanninkhof, R; Waterhouse, AF; Waterman, S; Watson, A; Wilson, C; Wong, APS; Xu, J; Yasuda, I. 2019 On the Future of Argo: A Global, Full-Depth, Multi-Disciplinary Array. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00439
    View publication

  2. Whisgott, JU; Sharples, J; Hopkins, JE; Woodward, EMS; Hull, T; Greenwood, N; Sivyer, DB. 2019 Observations of vertical mixing in autumn and its effect on the autumn phytoplankton bloom. Progress in Oceanography. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2019.01.001
    View publication

  3. Vincent, AG; Pascal, RW; Beaton, AD; Walk, J; Hopkins, JE; Woodward, EMS; Mowlem, M; Lohan, MC. 2018 Nitrate drawdown during a shelf sea spring bloom revealed using a novel microfluidic in situ chemical sensor deployed within an autonomous underwater glider. Marine Chemistry, 205. 29-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marchem.2018.07.005
    View publication

  4. 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2018.02.021
    View publication

  5. 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2018.05.001
    View publication

View more publications