April 30, 2010

Researchers To Study Volcano’s Effect On Marine Life

A team of researchers from the UK's National Oceanography Centre will be spending the next month investigating how recent eruptions of an Icelandic volcano have effected marine life in the North Atlantic, according to a Thursday BBC News report.

Earlier this month, eruptions at a volcano located beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland covered the area with volcanic dust and created an ash cloud that crippled European air travel for the better part of a week.

Now, the research expedition, which was actually planned several years ago, will now give the team an opportunity to investigate the effect that the eruption might have had on the aquatic creatures living in the vicinity.

"It is a very interesting and unique situation that we find ourselves in," Eric Achterberg, who will lead the National Oceanography Centre's study, told BBC News on Thursday. "It will provide an angle that we did not expect."

"We are interested in the sub-polar region of the North Atlantic, which is the area just south of Iceland and Greenland... [and] we will be sampling the particles in the atmosphere and chemicals in the rainwater," he added. "This means that we can calculate what is falling into the oceans. We will also measure the chemicals in the ocean, and we're particularly interested in elements like iron, but also nitrogen, phosphorous and silicon."

According to Achterberg, the waters in the North Atlantic typically contain low amounts of iron and other atmospheric nutrients. Iron typically helps phytoplankton grow, so the professor believes that the ash from the eruption could have injected additional iron into the water, thus triggering longer phytoplankton blooms.

Achterberg and his colleagues plan to study how the phytoplankton absorb and store carbon dioxide. According to the BBC, they plan to release their findings shortly after returning to the UK near the end of May.


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