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Shelf Seas Modelling Programme

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Shelf seas modelling programme

Shelf seas are of major societal importance, providing a diverse range of goods (e.g. fisheries, renewable energy, transport) and services (e.g. carbon and nutrient cycling and biodiversity). At the same time they are under enormous pressure from man’s activities which may have a significant impact on the basic functioning of such systems. For example, climate change will lead to large scale changes in stratification and temperature, while increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will lead to acidification of the oceans with significant impacts on ocean biogeochemistry. Simultaneously, combinations of direct human activities (e.g. fishing, and eutrophication) directly impact the biogeochemical cycles of both carbon and nutrients.

Our understanding of the biogeochemistry of the shelf seas is limited and many processes are poorly understood; in particular, the biogeochemical budgets of carbon and nutrients. Key questions, such as is the UK continental shelf a source or sink for carbon and nitrogen, remain unanswered. In addition there are gaps in our knowledge of some of the key physical, chemical and biological controls on biogeochemical cycles.

By synthesising empirical knowledge into quantitative descriptions, computer models allow scientists to investigate the functioning of, and interactions between, ecology, biogeochemistry, anthropogenic pressures and climate. The overarching scientific goal of this project is then to enhance our capacity to assess the controls on biogeochemical cycling, and hence to quantify with uncertainties, the budgets of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and silicon, including their response to climate, natural variability and anthropogenic stress. The underpinning strategic goal within the program is to develop a new shelf seas biogeochemical model system, coupled to a state of the art physical model, capable of predicting regional impacts of environmental change on time scales ranging from days to decades.

A photograph taken half underwater of a shallow part of the ocean