Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Showing posts with label NIOZ corer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NIOZ corer. Show all posts

Thursday 14 May 2015

Working with mud!

By Sarah  Dashfield  and  Joana (Jo) Nunes

This is our first SSB cruise, as well as our first cruise overall!!! Exciting stuff!

Bulk coring team

On the second benthic cruise we are responsible for doing lots and lots of coring, i.e. lots of mud to shovel off the side of the ship!! Sarah’s work, who is mainly responsible for all the fauna (the beasties) that live in and on the seabed, involves both the NIOZ and the SMBA box corer. These corers collect a 0.1m2 and a 0.5m2 sample of the seafloor, respectively. Epifauna is collected with the Jennings trawl, a 2m net that is very slowly dragged over the seabed – the nets collect lots of bivalves, starfish and sea mice (furry and iridescent worms! Yes, really!),  snappy Nephrops norvegica (scampi!) and sometimes even some monkfish, which we don’t keep!

Sea mice


Jo is responsible for the flux coring. Here, we also use the NIOZ box corer, but each core is shared by several people. It is Dave who collects for nutrient flux incubation, Gangi who collects cores for oxygen profile incubations, and Helen who collects cores for a pulse-chase experiment.  This experiment quantifies the exchange of nutrients between the sediment and the overlaying water.
Jo sub-samples around everyone else:  50mL syringes for pigments and microbial analysis, surface scrapes for nitrification rates, and, the most fun of all, 10cm diameter cores for denitrification rates, which get whizzed up with a blender-like piece of kit.  The samples are treated with different chemicals to stop the nitrification process at different stages, incubated for a minimum of 24 hours and fixed with zinc chloride.  Finally, they are ready for analysis when we return back to PML.

Jennings trawl 
The fauna that we have collected from the trawls and cores will be identified, counted and weighed when we return to the benthic lab in PML.  This information together with the microbial data and the chemical analyses can be statistically analysed to discover whether there is a relationship between them. Finally, this information can be added to enhance marine models such as ERSEM (the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model) which then will be used to predict how the marine environment may change in the future.

Flux coring

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Calm Seas

Calm seas: Credit: Gary Fones

12th of May saw some much appreciated calm weather and lots of science activity aboard the RRS Discovery. Lunchtime saw the deployment of the PML Buoy Profiler, which is a SSB PhD project (more of this in a latter blog from Rich Sims, PML).

 Picture of PML Buoy. Credit: Gary Fones

Sediment coring followed this, this is a key activity of any benthic cruise. We are using a number of coring devices to collect sediment from the seabed beneath us, which is 100m down. On this research cruise we are using a NIOZ corer which is used to collect sediment (mud) from the ocean floor,  a mega-corer (able to take up to 12 undisturbed samples in clear plastic tubes),  and a large SMBA box corer which is designed to take a 600mm square, undisturbed sediment sample up to a maximum depth of around 450mm.

 NIOZ corer recovered to deck. Credit: Gary Fones
Wednesday 13th of May started with calm seas and a lovely sunrise. This was followed by a very successful recovery of the NOCL mini-stable lander that has been on the seabed the last few days gathering in-situ data (more of this in a latter blog) which will be used by the scientists to understand processes happening at the boundary between the sea bed and water column.

Recovery of Lander: Credit:Richard Cooke

Thursday 19 March 2015

Deployment of SPI camera to the ocan's seabed.

Louis Byrne, British Oceanographic Data Centre, NOC

Until Saturday when we are scheduled to depart to CANDYFLOSS we are finishing a spatial survey between the four benthic sites which we have been working at thus far. The work which we are doing at the four benthic stations helps us to understand how processes such as nutrient resuspension and carbon storage work in four different types of marine sediment (mud, sandy mud, muddy sand and sand). The purpose of the spatial survey is to put the data which we have been collecting at sites A, I, G and H into context and to look at gradients in sediment type between the main sites. To do this the program has created a network of 70 locations between the four sites. Our task is to sample as many as we can before we run out of time and head to CANDYFLOSS.

Image taken by a SPI camera

At each station we do two NIOZ cores and a SPI camera, which is an instrument that is lowered to the seabed and dropped into the sediment. It contains a prism to reflect the light 90 degrees so that when an image is taken by the camera, you get an image of the sediment and the overlying water. These images are then analysed to get an idea of the sediment type at that location and inspected for any signs of animal life.

Map of Celtic Sea showing four main benthic sites and CANDYFLOSS. Map created by Kirsty Morris (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton)

From the sediment samples brought up by the NIOZ cores, we can find out the sediment type at that particular location, and a variety of measurements are taken including organic carbon, nutrient and chlorophyll concentrations, as well as particle size, porosity (the space between the grains of the sediment) and the oxygen concentrations in the water between the grains of sediment.

Coring while performing the spatial survey

All of these measurements combined will give us a good idea of how carbon and nutrients are being cycled in the shelf seas over a wide area of the Celtic Sea, with the hope that these data can be extrapolated to cover all of the shelf seas around the UK and parts of continental Europe. This will then give us a much better understanding of the nutrient cycle in this area of the world, and we will be able to estimate how much carbon from the atmosphere is being stored in UK sediments.

Kirsty Morris operating the SPI camera just before it hits the seabed.

Saturday 7 March 2015

What is happening in the benthos?

Louis Byrne, British Oceanographic Data Centre, NOC

The seas picked up again on Saturday and unfortunately again a few members of the science crew have been feeling a bit green, however the strong winds left us on Sunday and we had our first days’ proper sunshine of the cruise, complete with the obligatory sunset photograph, but not the fabled green flash!

The focus on this cruise is on processes that are happening in the benthos – meaning the environment above and within the seabed – and how these processes change as the seabed moves from sandy sediment to muddy sediment. To do this we are investigating four sites which are characterised as sand, sandy mud, muddy sand and mud. We managed to complete the NIOZ coring of the sandy site (Site G) over Sunday night, giving our sedimentologists some sandy samples to analyse along with the muddy sediment collected from site A.

A sample of sandy sediment ready to be sliced

Natalie Hicks (SAMS) is using the samples collected by the NIOZ corer to investigate the dynamics of benthic carbon cycling, including how deep and for how long carbon is stored in the different types of marine sediments, and how much is released back into the water column. She is collecting sediment samples from the seabed to a depth of 25 cm and then slicing it into cross sections, with each slice containing sediment from a different depth. These will then be stored in a freezer until the end of the cruise, when they are taken back to the laboratories in the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to be analysed.


Natalie slicing her core into cross sections

Back at SAMS, the sediments will be analysed for their porosity, which refers to how much space there is for water between the grains in the sediment. Muddy sediment has smaller grains which fit together more tightly than sandy sediment, leaving less space for water between them. This makes it easier for pockets of water deeper in the sediment to be cut off from the sea water above.

Once this happens the water in the pocket will quickly run out of oxygen (there will be more about this later in the blog), making it impossible for aerobic bacteria (they are the ones requiring oxygen for respiration) to consume the organic matter in the water. This organic matter will then be stored in the sediments, unless it is resuspended through physical water movement or animal activity.

A NIOZ core about to be dropped into the Celtic Sea

Apart from the porosity and grain size, the carbon (both inorganic and organic) is measured as well as the amount of the lead isotope,
210Pb. The carbon is measured so that we can have an idea of how much biological material is buried within the different sediment types.  210Pb is measured as it can be used as an indicator for how often the sediment at each depth is being resuspended or accumulated. Putting all of these measurements together, can give you a better understanding of benthic carbon cycling, and how this differs between the different sediment types

All of this is important so that we can determine whether each sediment type is a source or a sink of carbon. If we can understand better how deep carbon needs to be buried in the different sediments before it is sequestered (stored permanently in the seabed sediments) and how long it will stay the sediments for, then we can know how much carbon they will absorb over time. This will help us predict how much atmospheric CO2 may be buried in our marine sediments over a certain timescale.

The rains and rough weather returned on Sunday, however I think most of us have our sea legs now!

Sunset on Saturday