BIOACID Mesocosm Project, Gran Canaria

Mesocosm project aims and responsibilities 

Following on from a very fruitful mesocosm deployment in Gullmar Fjord in Sweden, during which I completed my Masters research, the KOSMOS team from GEOMAR chose to set their next experiment in Gran Canaria. Just offshore from Las Palmas, the ten pelagic mesocosms were installed early in 2014. The aims of this experiment were to characterise the effects of ocean acidification on the planktonic community in addition to a deep, nutrient-rich water fertilization. I was recruited to join the team primarily to monitor macro and nano nutrient concentrations. Additionally, I assisted with incidental lab work, sampling, boat driving, and general maintenance.

plocan mesocosm GEOMAR jessica bellworthy

Experimental Team at PLOCAN

GC mesocosm jessica bellworthy man-o-war

Portugease Man-O-War guarding the mesocosms

Riebesell deep water collector mesocosm jessica bellworthy

The first successful deep water collection – Photo M. Sswat

GC mesocosms jessica bellworthy

Mesocosms at dusk. Photo – M. Sswat

PLOCAN institute in Taliarte did a great job of hosting us. Thanks to their efforts, despite a few rough weather days, the experiment’s initiation ran smooth. Future ocean conditions were simulated in the mesocosms by the addition of supplementary carbon dioxide. Every other day drove the boats to our mesocosm site, sampled the water and the plankton community and returned it to the lab for various analyses. Conducting the sampling in shorts and t-shirt was certainly a lot more comfortable than the survival suits used in Sweden!

However, our productivity was not to last the course of the planned experiment.

mesocosms Ulf Riebesell storm Jessica Bellworthy

50 knot winds hit our mesocosms. Photo – Ulf Riebesell

After just a few weeks, an onshore storm hit exposing our mesocosms to 50 knot winds. This resulted in tears in the mesocosm walls, broken shackles, torn ropes, and damage to the structure. The damage sustained was devastating. Therefore the decision was taken to terminate the experiment in hope of preventing further damage and to return the KOSMOS to the engineering team at GEOMAR.

And so, with great disappointment, the mesocosms were carefully removed from the site and brought to shore for cleaning. Cleaning required a sustained huge effort from multiple participants to power wash the millions of goose-neck barnacles settled on the frames. Luckily the sunshine returned at this point and whilst packing up the containers the mood returned to positivity. A discussion of a new attempt at the same experiment ensued. Gran Canaria 2.0 was successfully completed later in the year, albeit in a much more sheltered bay.

On a positive note

This exemplifies the “can-do” attitude of Professor Ulf Riebesell’s KOSMOS team. I learnt a lot during my two expeditions with team, namely the importance of team communication, efficiency, as well as multiple oceanographic lab techniques. Perhaps even more importantly I discovered the value of working in an interdisciplinary, international team and the vast ideas, data, and enduring friendships that result.

Packing GEOMAR Gran canaria mesocosm end Jessica Bellworthy

Packing the containers

Packing finished mesocosm gran canaria Jessica Bellworthy GEOMAR

The best packing team in the world – Finished