PLOCAN hosts the OceanNETs 2021 study: making the ocean an ally in climate protection

By September 14, 2021 News

The German institute GEOMAR (Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel) has started this year’s field experiment at Taliarte harbour, in Gran Canaria, which investigates a possible solution for the long-term removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

More than 50 scientists from six nations led by GEOMAR will investigate, in the next seven weeks, to what extent the ocean can help absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and its impacts on marine life.

The experiment is taking place as part of the Euopean Union project Ocean-based Negative Emission Technologies (OceanNETs). The project, which has been running since July 2020, aims to provide an integrated assessment of targeted measures for CO2 removal in the ocean.

In the long term, most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by humans will be recaptured by the weathering of rocks on land and stored in the ocean as dissolved bicarbonate. However, it will take up to ten thousand years for the human CO2 footprint to be largely wiped out again via this process. This takes too long to play a significant role in addressing climate change in the coming decades, unless this process could be actively accelerated.

Whether this is possible and how the biotic communities in the sea react to it is currently being investigated by 50 scientists from six nations under the leadership of GEOMAR in an outdoor experiment on Gran Canaria with the multidisciplinary logistical support from the onshore facilities of PLOCAN.

In nine oversized test tubes in the sea, so-called mesocosms, the researchers are simulating accelerated weathering through the addition of minerals, as they are also introduced into the oceans through natural weathering.

The investigations are focused on how the biotic communities enclosed in the mesocosms react to this intervention. Besides the additional binding of CO2 in the seawater, the approach known as ocean alkalinisation has the co-benefit of counteracting ocean acidification.

The on-going acidification of seawater is a consequence of continued CO2 emissions. About a quarter of the CO2 released annually by humans dissolves in the ocean and reacts with the water to form carbonic acid with serious consequences for marine life.

For the next seven weeks, the goal is to investigate the potential risks and side effects of ocean alkalinisation on marine communities, but also to capture any positive effects by curbing ocean acidification. Moreover, it is hoped to gain insights into how effectively and safely ocean alkalinisation could be used as a method of CO2 removal.

In addition to the “OceanNETs” project, which is funded under the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission, the study on Gran Canaria is co-funded by the EU project “AQUACOSM-plus” and the project “Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal” (Ocean-CDR) of the Helmholtz Association.

Follow the OceanNETs blog for upcoming study updates.