The world is at a critical moment in its history due to the threat posed by climate change. Scientists and policy makers have focused a lot of time and energy to tackle the consequences of the anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane (CH4) however, should also be at the forefront of our mind, as it is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
The release of methane form marine sources is still a mystery. Bottom water warming may increase the release of CH4 into the water column due to melting of the methane ice ? hydrate. This is a solid form of CH4 present in large sub-seabed reservoirs, stabilized by cold temperatures and high pressure. Oil and gas exploration may also disturb this fragile equilibrium, releasing more CH4 in the water column. The gas can increase ocean acidity, threatening the health of local ecosystems. If this potent greenhouse gas reaches the atmosphere, it will increase the global budget of greenhouse gases.
The Hola trough in the Lofoten-Vesterålen area hosts a large cold coral reef system and is of importance to enormous fish stock in the area. It is also a site of methane release from the ocean floor. Why are coral reefs thriving there despite a possible ocean acidification due to CH4 emission? What is influencing this release and how does it influence the surrounding sub-seafloor and water column? How long has the methane been leaking there? Where does it go? How much carbon is expelled from the seafloor? EMAN7 will answer these questions by using the state-of-the-art cabled observatory facility Lofoten-Vesterålen (LoVe) as well as conducting annual research surveys. One of the LoVe observatories is deployed in a methane seepage area, providing a continuous, wide range of physical, biological and chemical measurements. These parameters will provide cross-disciplinary research team with a complete picture of the ecosystem response to CH4 seepage, giving us an insight as to what happens to this seepage system itself over time.
At a time when climate change in no longer a debate, much focus has been placed on reducing anthropogenic inputs of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). However, methane (CH4, a more potent greenhouse gas compared to CO2) associated with underwater reservoirs of hydrocarbons, can erupt as climate driven changes to the physical environment reduce its stability. In addition, increased anthropogenic activities in hydrocarbon rich areas (i.e., oil and gas exploration) may cause additional release of greenhouse gases (CH4 and CO2) altering several biogeochemical processes and threatening health of the local ecosystem. The EMAN7 project will use the state of the art observatory facility located in the resource rich area of Lofoten-Vesterålen (LoVe) for monitoring a wide range of physical, biological and chemical parameters associated with cold-water coral reefs and CH4 seepage. These parameters will provide cross-disciplinary research with a complete picture of the ecosystem response to CH4 seepage, as well as temporal and spatial variation of the seepage system itself. Furthermore, as this region serves as a conduit of warm Atlantic water transport to the Arctic, data collected at the LoVe nodes will provide needed insight to predict potential impacts of climate change in Arctic regions. Annual research surveys in the Hola Trough will complement the long-term data with spatial variability in CH4 seepage and greenhouse gases exchange across air-sea interface. We also anticipate that the results of our proposed research will improve the understanding of sub-seafloor fluid flow over a wide range of systems that are involved in the transfer of carbon from the sub-seafloor to the ocean. These results will thus provide constraints to estimate fluxes both at the studied sites and globally, while gaining particular insight into the properties, dynamics and fluxes of sediment-hosted systems.