The main objective of Marinexus is to create a network of research and outreach structures, based in Plymouth and Roscoff, in order to give the public information about marine ecosystems in the Western Channel, and to make them aware of the ability of these ecosystems to cope with the effects of human activity.
The principal objective of this project is to create a cross-channel network of research and outreach activities in order to provide stakeholders, schoolchildren and the general public with accessible information on :
A special emphasis is being placed on alien species, that is to say non-native species that have become established in the area through human-mediated transport with multiple ecological and economic consequences. Biological introductions are a growing concern in biodiversity management.
A major objective of this research program is the sharing of resources that are available on either side of the Channel. These resources include long-term monitoring data, extensive collections of biological resources on both sites, complementary study sites in the field, shared molecular data (such as genome sequences), technical expertise and complementary skills in a broad range of domains including genetics, genomics, cell biology and imagery.
The program of joint research activities between the laboratories in Plymouth and Roscoff will provide the scientific basis for the development of the proposed communication program.
The long-term objective of the Marinexus project will be to reduce human impact on the marine environment of the Western Channel by increasing awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of marine ecosystems. For the general public, we hope to promote a cultural re-evaluation of this precious resource. The information that the project will provide to stakeholders, such as local government, government agencies and associations, will allow them to make informed decisions about projects or activities that may affect the marine environment. These could include, for example, coastal construction projects, water and energy resource management and dealing with the polluting effects of activities such as agriculture or manufacture.
Strengthening interactions within the cross border area
Geographically, the aim of the project is to create a solid link between two well-defined sites on either side of the Channel, the region around Roscoff in France (the “Pays Léonard”) and the Plymouth area in England.
The English Channel exemplifies many of the problems associated with the sustainable development of marine areas. Human activity is intense in the Channel and occurs in many different forms including open water traffic – most notably heavy transitory cargo ships – together with the intense exploitation of the coastal regions for construction, waste management, agriculture and coastal and cross-Channel traffic and leisure activities.
In addition to these regional effects, global perturbations such as climate change have to be taken into account to obtain a comprehensive view of the impact of human activity on these ecosystems. Because the English Channel also exemplifies a shared marine region, bordering France and England, the effective implementation of sustainable development will only be possible through integrated cross-border policies.
The development of a sustainable environmental policy for a marine area such as the Channel must be built on a sound scientific understanding of the ecosystems that are present in the Channel area, in particular their ability to cope with anthropogenic perturbations, either in the form of changes to their environment or due to the introduction of competing, invasive species.
This knowledge needs to be effectively communicated to the public and to stakeholders and policy makers so that there is a general, informed awareness of the problem in hand and so that effective, knowledge-based policies can be set in place to ensure ecologically and economically sustainable development.
In this context, one clear advantage of the western English Channel, compared with other marine areas, is the presence of established marine research infrastructures on both the French (Roscoff) and the English (Plymouth) sides. These infrastructures not only provide an essential long-term perspective, but both sites operate long-term monitoring programs, with Plymouth’s being the longest running of its kind in the world. Both sites also provide state-of-the-art facilities in which modern biological methodologies may be applied to understand marine ecosystems and their resilience to human activities.
The Roscoff Biological Station (SBR) is an experimental marine biology and oceanography research and education centre located on the north coast of Brittany. Founded in 1872, the SBR is one of Europe’s major marine stations. It is overseen by the Pierre and Marie Curie University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, Marinexus project sponsor) and the French National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU).
Its missions include :
The ferry company Brittany Ferries offers highly frequented maritime liaisons between France and the British Isles (England, Ireland) and also Spain. It is the Roscoff-Plymouth route that Marinexus is particularly interested in. A ferry box, a device that measures physico-chemical and biological parameters of the seawater, was installed aboard the ferry ship Armorique that sails from Roscoff to Plymouth. This ferry also hosts science activities for young ferry passengers.
Established more than 125 years ago, the Marine Biological Association is a scientific institute at the forefront of marine biology in the United Kingdom and enjoys international renown. Its mission is to promote scientific research on all aspects of marine life and to disseminate results from this research to the public. It instigated the creation of the National Marine Aquarium.
The mission of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory(PML) is centred on applying an integrated approach to address problems posed by marine ecosystems and to propose solutions that account for the complexity of these ecosystems, as well as the unique biological resources that they harbour. In particular, the PML has expertise in the fields of climate change and sustainable development of marine systems.
The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) is an international association that coordinates the continuous plankton recorder (CPR) surveys. The SAHFOS has been collecting data on the biogeography and the ecology of plankton in the North Atlantic and the North Sea since 1931. This type of survey is now carried out in other areas around the world. The results from this monitoring programme are used by marine biology institutes and in studies on environmental change around the world.
The objective of the National Marine Aquarium is to encourage actions that promote sustainable development and conservation of the marine environment. The National Marine Aquarium is the first aquarium in the United Kingdom to be created uniquely for education, conservation and research.
Outreach Service provider
The Petits Débrouillards Bretagne association
First established in Quebec, the Petits Débrouillards is a science education and public outreach organisation. For children and adults alike, it offers a fun approach to science, allowing the general public to manipulate simple, everyday [scientific] materials and to conduct scientific experiments.
Les Petits Débrouillards Bretagne was selected by the SBR to design and conduct scientific workshops in connection with research carried out by the scientists involved in Marinexus.
Marinexus is a scientific project set up in Roscoff (Brittany, France) and Plymouth (UK) to study the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems in the Western English Channel and communicate the results to the public.
Marinexus is co-financed by the cross-border cooperation program Interreg France-Channel-England, part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union.
The total cost of the project is 4 994 954 €, half of this budget is European Union contribution.
Marinexus began the 1st of January 2010 and ends the 31st of December 2013.
This part of the program concentrates on the ability of endogenous marine species to cope with modifications to their environment. The work functions at a different level, focusing on selected model species rather than working at a broader ecosystem level. This approach, which is possible because endogenous species tend to be better characterised than species that have recently arrived in the Western Channel area, enables us to investigate specific physiological and genetic processes that play a key role in the responses of populations of marine organisms to changes in their environment. Work focus on selected organisms from both coastal and open water ecosystems. For the former, we concentrate on macroalgae and address two main questions:
For open water ecosystems, we investigate the genomic parameters which are related to the ability of coccolithophores to adapt to modifications to their environment, in particular to acidification caused by increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).
The coastal ecosystems of the Channel are subjected to a broad range of anthropogenic influences, including both the indirect effects of climate change and the direct effects of pollution and maritime commercial and leisure activities. The responses of coastal ecosystems to such perturbations are difficult to predict, and this is in part due to a lack of understanding of the basic biology of the organisms that make up these ecosystems. Marine macroalgae, or seaweeds, are keystone species in the rocky shore environments that make up most of the coastline along both sides of the Channel, and these organisms provide habitats for a wide range of other species. One objective is to investigate key biological processes in macroalgae of direct relevance to their ability to respond to modifications to their environment. This involves work both on the model seaweed Ectocarpus siliculosus and on Fucus and Laminaria species, which are major components of coastal eccosystems in the Western Channel.
Coccolithophores (haptophyte microalgae) are an important component of the phytoplankton of the open waters of the Western Channel and these organisms have a significant impact, globally, on the cycling of carbon between the different compartments of the biosphere. Coccolithophores are protected by tiny calcium carbonate (CaCO3) plates and the biomineralisation process that produces these plates is responsible for ~50% of global pelagic carbonate production. Biomineralisation traps carbon in an insoluble form, a large proportion of which is sequestered on the ocean floor after the death and sedimentation of the algae. This process is sensitive to the current rapid rise in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere because this gas diffuses into surface waters, provoking a decrease in pH and carbonate ion (CO32-) concentration. In consequence, biomineralisation is inhibited, with negative feedback effects on regional and global climates. It is therefore crucial to estimate the capacities of coccolithophores to adapt to these changing conditions and to understand their mechanisms of adaptation.
The ability of a wild population to adapt to changes in its environment depends on the structure of the population and its mode of reproduction. It is therefore crucial, when studying the effects of environmental modifications on populations in the field, to take into account an organism’s life cycle and to understand how this life cycle is regulated. We are developing molecular markers to investigate population structures at several sites on both sides of the Western channel. Laboratory based experiments are being undertaken to investigate the life cycle of Ectocarpus. Physiological and genetic studies of the response of macroalgae to stress will focus on Ectocarpus and another brown algal species, Fucus serratus. Responses to changes in several parameters such as salinity, temperature, light and pH, tested individually and in combination are being measured using Pulse Amplitude Modulation Fluorometry (PAM) together with imaging of embryos in response to stress using reporter fluorescent dyes. These experiments are expected to provide information about the resilience of brown macroalgae to stress due to modifications to their environment and allow insights into the genetic processes that underlie this resilience.
Additionally, the collection of Ectocarpus strains from different sites on both sides of the Channel is being analysed for the presence of the lysogenic virus EsV-1. These analyses provide complementary data about the extent to which these organisms are subjected to a second type of stress, biotic stress due to viral infections. Field isolates of Laminaria spp. are also being analysed for the presence of virus to determine whether other macroalgae are also subject to this type of biotic stress.
Work on coccolithophores uses a comparative genomics approach to correlate genomic variations (e.g. genome sizes determined by flow cytometry and gene complements determined using microarrays) with phenotypic traits at both the inter- and intra-specific levels. The aim is to identify “adaptive” genes, or at least genes under positive selection pressure, and to study the expression of these genes under different environmental conditions particularly with respect to acidification.
Marinexus gathers two kind of partners: marine research laboratories and outreach and tourism structures.
The laboratories at Plymouth and Roscoff have maintained centennial length time-series measuring key parameters in determining ecosystem function and health. These observations cover a broad spectrum of parameters, essentially measuring from photons to fish.
Over the past twenty years, the in situ measurements at the historic time-series stations have been complemented by remote sensing (sea-surface temperature and ocean colour) and ecosystem modelling, which can give valuable synoptic scale information on ecosystem function in 4D. The two laboratories are also linked by the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey which is regularly towed between Plymouth and Roscoff, and during 2010 a ferry-box was installed on the Brittany Ferries line.
Within the Marinexus project, the Plymouth and Roscoff phytoplankton time series scientists have collaborated to share data and ensure that their operating methods enable proper comparison of the phytoplankton time series on either side of the Channel.
For further information on the Plymouth Phytoplankton Time Series data and protocols click →here.
For further information on the Roscoff Phytoplankton Time Series data and protocols click →here.
Both the Roscoff and Plymouth Observatories share the same technological challenges of maintaining high frequency moorings within the harsh environment of the western English Channel, but the opposite sides of the Channel have stark differences in their hydrography: the French side is well mixed all year round whereas the English side is seasonally stratified usually between April and September.
Mark Cock, Station Biologique de Roscoff – CNRS
Station Biologique de Roscoff
Place Georges Tessier
+33 2 98 29 25 57
Early in June 2013 a new and improved buoy was deployed at the E1 station (50o02.6’N 004o22.5’W), some 20 nautical miles south of Plymouth. This station forms a critical part of the Western Channel Observatory (WCO) with oceanographic measurements dating back to the early part of the last century.
The Western Channel Observatory is an oceanographic time-series and marine biodiversity reference site in the Western English Channel. In situ measurements are undertaken weekly at coastal station L4 and fortnightly at open shelf station E1 using the research vessels of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Marine Biological Association. These measurements are complemented by PML’s recognised excellence in ecosystem modelling and satellite remote sensing science. By integrating these different observational disciplines we can begin to disentangle the complexity of the marine ecosystem.
The new buoy represents a significant collaboration between Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the MET Office. The buoy continues to measure an array of oceanographic parameters but now has enhanced meteorological capabilities and the addition of a spectral wave sensor.
Over the past few months the southwest UK has been on the receiving end of a seemingly relentless series of huge Atlantic storms and for the first time the E1 buoy has been well positioned to measure the ferocity of these events. Wind speeds of over 65mph have been recorded by the buoy, which transmits data in near real time back to both institutes and is directly ingested into the MET Office forecasting systems. These wind speeds are indicative of a Beaufort scale 10 -11 (storm – violent storm) and this is backed up by the wave heights recorded by the buoy. During the early part of this year the buoy has regularly reported wave heights in the region of 10m. The sensor is powered for 20 minutes every hour and reports the average wave height, the maximum wave height and the significant wave height, which is the average of the third of the highest waves during this period. The most significant wave heights were recorded on the 5th February 2014 with average wave heights of 6.5m, significant wave heights of 10.7m and the maximum wave height so far reported by the buoy was 15.14m. These huge waves have been the cause of much damage to coastal areas, with the large scale destruction of sea defences and homes. It is, however not just the wave heights that are unusual but also the almost constant bombardment of storm after storm with intensities that haven’t been recorded for decades.
Beach Rangers helping local people to enjoy Plymouth beaches. Image: Fotonow
The Beach Rangers have been running marine life awareness events on beaches around Plymouth all summer. Yesterday they ran an introduction to snorkeling at Devil’s Point Beach, and today they are at Kinterbury Creek for the last time this summer.
Activities that people can do with the Beach Rangers include: seaweed identification cookery; family play sessions; rockpooling; snorkeling, beach cleans and artwork.
The Beach Rangers are supported by Marinexus and are helping to bring Plymouth communities together around a shared interest in marine life.
The snorkel event was covered by the local press, see →http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/PICTURES-Plymouth-youngsters-learn-art/story-19720487-detail/story.html
Non-native species continue to turn up in marinas in south west England and Brittany, surveys undertaken as part of Marinexus show.
Amongst the notable records are two species of goose barnacle and the first English appearance of the bryozoan Schizoporella japonica.
Conchoderma auritum is a goose barnacle that often attaches to the big ‘acorn’ barnacle Coronula that frequently makes raised white patches on hump-back whales. It is also known from ship hulls, buoys, logs etc.
The more numerous species amongst the specimens collected, C. virgatum, has been recorded attached to turtles and occasionally fish and sea-snakes, but also to boat hulls; it is rarely found this far north.
Schizoporella japonica on underside of fender, with the erect non-native bryozoans Tricellaria inopinata and Bugula neritina and the ascidians Styela clava (also non-native) and Molgula socialis.
Both species of goose barnacle and the bryozoan Schizoporella japonica were seen during Marinexus rapid assessment surveys of marinas in southwest England and Brittany.
For more information on work on invasion ecology of sessile marine animals, see the web pages of the →Bishop group at the Marine Biological Association.
Research using the FerryBox ocean observing system installed on a cross-channel ferry shows differences in the CO2 uptake and ecosystem productivity between the two hydrographically distinct regions of the western English Channel.
How does the research fit into Marinexus?
The regular ferry line operated by the Britanny Ferries company between Roscoff and Plymouth perfectly match with the Marinexus project. The Armorique ferry equipped with a FerryBox system continuously records biogeochemical parameters along the ferry track. The objectives of this research are to study air-sea CO2 fluxes, the main greenhouse gas, in the Western English Channel and more generally the dynamics of the ecosystems from diurnal to inter-annual time scale.
What is the problem under investigation?
Continental shelf ecosystems are highly dynamic regarding physical, chemical and biological parameters and play a significant role in biogeochemical cycles despite their relatively moderate size compared to the global oceans (7%). In the context of climate change, with increasing water temperatures, rising CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and oceans, and decreasing ocean pH, long-term high-frequency monitoring of marine ecosystem variability is essential, particularly in coastal ecosystems. In such dynamic ecosystems, important short scale biological events occur and impact the chemical properties of the WEC waters. The FerryBox appears as the perfect tool to monitor biogeochemical parameters with a high spatio-temporal resolution at a lesser cost.
Moreover the WEC is a particularly interesting area to investigate because it hosts two contrasting hydrographical provinces: the southern WEC, where the water column is well-mixed throughout the year due to intense tidal streams, and the northern WEC, where seasonal stratification of the water column occurs from April to September.
What are the key findings of the research?
For the first time we investigated the CO2 system dynamics along a latitudinal gradient in the WEC which allowed us to study the air-sea CO2 flux variability in the two main provinces of the WEC. The CO2 system showed different dynamics throughout the year in these 2 provinces with a greater CO2 sink and higher net ecosystem production in the seasonally stratified region compared to the year-round mixed region. The combined approach of a ferry line and fixed stations appears to be a valuable strategy and can provide a robust assessment of air-sea CO2 fluxes in the WEC.
Why it is important for society?
It is essential to improve our understanding of air-sea CO2 fluxes in the context of climate change due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions, especially in coastal ecosystems where these measurements are sparse considering the diversity of these ecosystems. It will allow the scientific community to better quantify the role of coastal ecosystems regarding the global carbon cycle. In addition to climate change, high atmospheric CO2 concentrations lead to high oceanic CO2 concentrations and subsequently to ocean acidification. The carbonate chemistry in seawater will be modified and could affect many marine calcifying organisms. Long term deployments of FerryBoxes are critical to assess anthropogenic forcing (e.g. ocean acidification, eutrophication) on coastal ecosystems in the context of climate change.
The research by lead author Pierre Marrec is published in the journal Marine Chemistry. Further details:
Summary of the study
In December 2010 we installed an autonomous ocean observing system, a FerryBox, on the regular ferry line between Roscoff (France) and Plymouth (UK) run by the Brittany Ferries company. In this first study we investigated the dynamics of the CO2 system and ancillary biogeochemical parameters across the Western English Channel (WEC) based on bimonthly discrete measurements from December 2010 to December 2011. The WEC hosts two main hydrographical structures: the all-year well-mixed southern WEC and the seasonally stratified northern WEC. We combined the surface ferry measurements with vertical profiles at fixed stations (ASTAN: Roscoff Coastal Observatory SOMLIT and E1: Western Channel Observatory in Plymouth) representative of each hydrographical province to assess the structure of the water column.
Figure 1 : Map and bathymetry of the study area with the location of 18 stations along the ferry track and location of the fixed stations ASTAN, E1 and L4.
The contrasting hydrographical properties strongly influenced the ecosystem dynamics. The seasonally stratified northern WEC showed enhanced biological activities characterized by an extensive autotrophic phase, which maintained the pCO2 below the atmospheric level until early fall thus representing a sink for atmospheric CO2 at a rate of 1.1 mol C m-2 y-1. The permanently well-mixed southern WEC was characterized by a shorter autotrophic phase due to a delay in spring phytoplankton growth and an early start of the fall heterotrophic phase, resulting in an annual air-sea CO2 flux close to equilibrium at a rate of -0.4 mol C m-2 y-1. Biological production/respiration processes were the main driver of pCO2 variability during this year.
Figure 2 : Air-sea CO2 fluxes (in mmol m-2 d-1) between Roscoff (48.73°N) and Plymouth (50.35°N) in 2011 computed from pCO2 air-sea gradient.
Previous studies carried out in the WEC did not discern the two main hydrographical structures which appears essential to resolve the discrepancies of the CO2 system dynamics. Since April 2012 we also have access to high-frequency pCO2 data along the ferry tracks in addition to other biogeochemical parameters (temperature, salinity dissolved O2 and fluorescence) recorded by the FerryBox. The first analysis of these high-frequency data will be published soon and will provide new insight into the short scale processes controlling air-sea CO2 fluxes in the different provinces of the WEC.
Reference : Marrec Pierre, Cariou Thierry, Collin Edouard, Durand Axel, Latimier Marie, Macé Eric, Morin Pascal, Raimund Stephen, Vernet Marc, and Bozec Yann, 2013. Seasonal and latitudinal variability of the CO2 system in the Western English Channel based on Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) measurements. Marine Chemistry 155, 29-41.
Plymouth Marine Laboratory and The Marine Biological Association operate an array of autonomous buoys in the English Channel. Each buoy is equipped with an array of sensors to look at both atmospheric and marine parameters.
The moored buoy at “E1″, an established location for oceanographic and biological sampling, is due to be redeployed after winter maintenance. The E1 buoy is scheduled for deployment on Monday June 10, in collaboration with the Met Office and Trinity House.
One of the autonomous buoys operating in the Western English Channel. Data from these buoys is used in Marinexus research.
Watch this space for news and hopefully some pictures – weather permitting!
Find out more about the E1 buoy and the →Western Channel Observatory.