Storing carbon dioxide (CO2) deep below the seabed is one way to counteract the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. But what happens if such storage sites begin to leak and CO2 escapes through the seafloor? Answers to this question have now been provided by a study dealing with the effects of CO2 emissions on the inhabitants of sandy seabed areas.
Day-in, day-out, we release nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. One possible measure against steadily increasing greenhouse gases is known as CCS (carbon capture and storage): Here, the carbon dioxide is captured, preferably directly at the power plant, and subsequently stored deep in the ground or beneath the seabed.
However, this method poses the risk of reservoirs leaking and allowing carbon dioxide to escape from the ground into the environment. The European research project ECO2, coordinated at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, addresses the question of how marine ecosystems react to such CO2-leaks.
The field study of an international group of researchers headed by Massimiliano Molari from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and Katja Guilini from the University of Ghent in Belgium, now published in Science Advances, reveals how leaking CO2 affects the seabed habitat and its inhabitants.
Substantial changes to algae, animals and microorganisms
For their study, the researchers visited natural leaks of CO2 in the sandy seabed off the coast of Sicily. They compared the local ecosystem with locations without CO2-venting. In addition, they exchanged sand between sites with and without CO2-venting in order to study how the bottom-dwellers respond and if they can adapt. Their conclusion: Increased CO2 levels drastically alter the ecosystem.
“Most of the animals inhabiting the site disappeared due to the effect of the leaking CO2”, Massimiliano Molari reports. “The functioning of the ecosystem was also disrupted – and what’s more, long-term. Even a year after the CO2-vented sediment had been transported to undisturbed sites, its typical sandy sediment community had not established.”
The researchers report the following details:
“A leak in a carbon storage system beneath the sea fundamentally alters the chemistry of sandy seabeds and subsequently the function of the entire ecosystem”, Molari summarizes. “That is, there is a considerable risk that a carbon dioxide leak will harm the local ecosystem. These carbon dioxide storage systems can nevertheless globally reduce the impact of climate change.”
A first holistic overview
For the first time, this current study delivers a “holistic” view of the effects of increasing CO2 concentrations on the seafloor. It considers both biological and biogeochemical processes and different levels of the food chain, from microbes to large invertebrate animals.
CCS facilities are already in operation, for example off the Norwegian coast. Within the European Union, CCS is considered a key technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Our results clearly reveal that the site selection and planning of carbon storage systems beneath the seabed also demand a detailed study of the inhabitants and their ecosystem in order to minimize harm”, emphasizes principal investigator Antje Boetius. „Having said that, global marine protection also includes taking measures against the still high CO2-emissions.“
Massimiliano Molari, Katja Guilini, Christian Lott, Miriam Weber, Dirk de Beer,
Stefanie Meyer, Alban Ramette, Gunter Wegener, Frank Wenzhöfer, Daniel Martin, Tamara Cibic, Cinzia De Vittor, Ann Vanreusel, Antje Boetius (2018): CO2 leakage alters biogeochemical and ecological functions of submarine sands. Sci. Adv. 2018. DOI: 0.1126/sciadv.aao2040
HGF-MPG Joint Research Group on Deep Sea Ecology and Technology & Microsensor Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, 28359 Bremen, Germany
Marine Biology Research Group, Department of Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences, Elba Field Station, Via del Forno 80, 57034 Campo nell’Elba (LI), Italy
MARUM, Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
HGF-MPG Joint Research Group on Deep Sea Ecology and Technology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB), Consejo Superior de Investiga- ciones Cientificas (CSIC), Blanes, Girona, Catalunya, Spain
Sezione di Oceanografia, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale – OGS, I-34151 Trieste, Italy
Please direct your queries to
Dr. Massimiliano Molari
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Phone: +49 421 2028 867
or the press office
Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Telefon: +49 421 2028 947
Video: ECO2 Panarea Expedition
Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Tiny satellites reveal water dynamics in thousands of northern lakes
15.02.2019 | Brown University
Artificial Intelligence to boost Earth system science
14.02.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.
The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
19.02.2019 | Information Technology
19.02.2019 | Health and Medicine
19.02.2019 | Trade Fair News