Images of climate innovation

Tracking blue carbon

This image shows a device designed by Terri Souster and Jonathon Yates of British Antarctic Survey. Challenges in sampling methods for localised and detailed data collection led them to develop an innovative underwater suction sampler. It improves data accuracy on biodiversity and biomass (blue carbon) in coastal marine communities and is used to study carbon capture and negative climate feedbacks in shallow-water sea-floor communities on a warming Antarctic Peninsula.

Two divers underwater operating the device

In a world where we are concerned about biodiversity loss and climate change, it is important more than ever to ensure we understand the biodiversity baseline and can monitor change. Studying the shallow waters around the western Antarctic Peninsula helps us understand the marine communities' ability to capture and store blue carbon and their role as a mitigating and nature-based solution to climate change.

Blue carbon refers to the carbon taken up by marine communities from underwater plants to the abundant microfauna and sediment layers. This knowledge in turn contributes to our ability to model future change under IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate scenarios. Small species (<3mm) likely dominate blue carbon communities around Antarctica, but this is difficult to assess or monitor because sampling them is highly challenging. What little we know suggests these communities may already be changing in response to climate, so proper assessment is critical on this frontline of climate change. Scuba divers in Antarctic waters experience sea temperatures between -1.8 o C (winter) and +2 o C (summer), so thick 5mm dive mitts are worn on our hands.

These give little dexterity and make collecting tiny seabed life very challenging. To improve the accuracy of measuring biodiversity and biomass we needed to come up with an innovative and new way of sampling. We have designed and constructed a suction sampler that is deployed from small boats in the summer or through a hole cut in the sea ice in winter. The suction sampler, therefore, captures biodiversity and biomass (blue carbon) year-round. It significantly improves biodiversity assessment and tracking of blue carbon and has the potential to be used in other areas of marine research.

Entrant: Terri Souster , British Antarctic Survey (BAS), (Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation Team)

Copyright: Terri Souster