Scientists from all over Europe are gathering outside the Swedish coastal town of Lysekil to participate in a gigantic project on ocean acidification and conduct experiments in fjord Gullmarn.
‘This is a great opportunity to build new networks,’ says Michael Klages, director of the Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences.
The water splashes high in the air as Nereus cuts through the blue-green waves of fjord Gullmarn and leaves an impressive wake behind. Ten minutes after setting out from the Lovén centre in Kristineberg, we spot huge plastic containers bobbing in the distant waves.
‘Those are mesocosms. They are like giant test tubes,’ says Professor Ulf Riebesell.
One of the German science journalists on board zips the last inch of his thick jacket, which by now covers half of his face. We are well into spring, but it is windy and freezing cold.
‘We’ve been fighting the elements this year. We’ve had snow and ice and the salinity in the water has been tricky,’ says Riebesell, who is in charge of the research project. The giant test tubes are his own design.
EACH MESOCOSM, which means ‘medium-sized cosmos’, consists of an almost 10 metre tall metal structure that holds a huge plastic bag filled with 55 000 litres of seawater – in other words a complete ecosystem. The researchers have added carbon dioxide to half of the ten bags to see how marine phyto- and zooplankton are affected by the acidity that the researchers predict that the world’s plankton will face at the end of the century.
Kristineberg’s 62 beds have been in high demand since German research vessel Alkor arrived in January. The acidification project has been fantastic, according to the Swedish researchers involved.
ECOTOXICOLOGIST Maria Granberg is one of them, and she is waiting for us at the dock as we return.
‘There’s a great sense of openness among the researchers in the project. It’s such a great way to meet and team up with other scientists,’ says Maria Granberg, postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
Granberg feels that the international project provides a great opportunity for Swedish researchers. About 20 researchers from the University of Gothenburg have been involved in different ways.
Her research team is exploring how bacteria are affected by a combination of acidification and environmental toxins. Increased acidity may change the structure of some toxins in a way that will make it easier for living organisms to absorb them.
‘Nobody has looked into this before. We don’t really know how the toxins in the water will react to the acidification,’ she says.
THE ACIDIFICATION PROJECT has opened up for many new research collaborations at many different levels. The director of the centre, Michael Klages, points out that marine research is generally both complex and costly and that it requires a lot of teamwork and cooperation between different countries.
‘Progress requires cooperation, and marine researchers are facing major challenges ahead.’
The BIOACID project
The BIOACID project, which stands for Biological Impacts of Ocean ACIDification, is coordinated by Ulf Riebesell, professor in biological oceanography at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany. The around 60 scientists involved in BIOACID Gullmarn are from the UK, Germany, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.
The project is funded by German science institutions, the EU and individual countries. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is also contributing.