Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) – a world-leading ocean observing facility hosted and owned by the University of Victoria, and Running Tide – an ocean health company, are partnering to conduct research experiment investigating what happens to carbon-capturing biomass after it sinks to the seafloor and its potential impacts on the deep sea environment as it resides there.
An observational platform was successfully installed on September 7th, outfitted with Running Tide’s Carbon Buoys by Pelagic Research Service’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Odysseus at the Clayoquot Slope site on ONC’s NEPTUNE seafloor observatory, located off the west coast of Canada.
The new monitoring site to investigate the ocean-based carbon dioxide removal technology is the first of its kind to be trialed in Canadian waters.
It will aim to improve knowledge of marine carbon dioxide removal (mCDR) and provide foundational information on the potential to enhance natural ocean carbon removal processes for addressing climate change.
“This experiment will advance the scientific understanding of biomass falls in the benthic environment – a natural, but currently undersampled occurrence… Understanding potential impact to seafloor ecosystems is critical for any carbon removal strategy that plans to durably remove carbon through sinking biomass. Partnering with ONC provides the opportunity to observe a marine environment that is very difficult to access, and will help advance foundational science in this area,” said Alison Tune, leader of Running Tide’s Earth Science and Ecology team.
The observational platform is custom-designed by Ocean Networks Canada with 18 compartments to house biomass provided by Running Tide. The biomass will get stored more than 1,000 meters below the surface. The installation has a centrally mounted camera, capable of imaging 360 degrees which will provide near-real-time imagery of the substrates in the environment.
Additionally, the biomass will be monitored via environmental sensors (salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen) and water and sediment samples will be collected throughout the experiment to observe potential changes in sediment composition, as well as how the in-situ microbial community might respond to the presence of Carbon Buoys.
The experiment is part of the efforts of Running Tide to understand the potential impacts of ocean carbon removal methods on the environment – both positive and intended, but also the local potential risks. Understanding how the natural materials stored over time at large quantities may impact organisms and the environment in the near term is critical in advancing ocean-based carbon removal and optimizing it to tackle efficiently the climate crisis.