Ocean change

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The Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany, has for the first time used its offshore observation system to study environmental changes in the oceans.

During the study, scientists at IFM-GEOMAR used six 20m-long mesocosms, which are receptacles that hold 60,000 litres of sea water, to study ocean acidification at the Booknis Eck observation station in the Baltic Sea.

The experiment was a test for a large-scale project that will take place off the coast of Svalbard in 2010 as part of the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA).

Project leader, Prof Ulf Riebesell from IFM-GEOMAR, said: ‘So far we have studied the impact of changes such as the increase of fertilisers or of the carbon-dioxide concentrations in small tanks in the laboratory.

‘The new mesocosms enable us to study the developments under natural and controlled conditions; thus we can better estimate their impact on the ecosystem.’

Speaking of the initial observation, Riebesell said: ‘The ocean absorbs more than a third of the carbon dioxide produced by human beings.

‘As a consequence the pH-value decreases and the ocean acidifies.

‘Now we want to know what the impact of the acidification on the marine ecosystem looks like.’

The work was carried out in conjunction with: the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven; the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde; the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin; and 19 students from Kiel.

The studies are part of the joint Surface Ocean Processes in the Anthropocene (SOPRAN) project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Interest in the technology has already been expressed from the US and the UK.