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Unisense A/S

Country: Denmark
3 Projects, page 1 of 1
  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/K001906/1
    Funder Contribution: 562,500 GBP
    Partners: University of Southampton, Griffith University, Unisense A/S, Partrac Ltd

    The coasts and shelf seas that surround us have been the focal point of human prosperity and well-being throughout our history and, consequently, have had a disproportionate effect on our culture. The societal importance of the shelf seas extends beyond food production to include biodiversity, carbon cycling and storage, waste disposal, nutrient cycling, recreation and renewable energy. Yet, as increasing proportions of the global population move closer to the coast, our seas have become progressively eroded by human activities, including overfishing, pollution, habitat disturbance and climate change. This is worrying because the condition of the seabed, biodiversity and human society are inextricably linked. Hence, there is an urgent need to understand the relative sensitivities of a range of shelf habitats so that human pressures can be managed more effectively to ensure the long-term sustainability of our seas and provision of societal benefits. Achieving these aims is not straightforward, as the capacity of the seabed to provide the goods and services we rely upon depends on the type of substrate (rock, gravel, sand, mud) and local conditions; some habitats are naturally dynamic and relatively insensitive to disturbance, while others are comparatively stable and vulnerable to change. This makes it very difficult to assess habitat sensitivities or make general statements about what benefits we can expect from our seas in the future. Recently, NERC and DEFRA have initiated a major new research programme on Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry that will improve knowledge about these issues. In response to this call, we have assembled a consortium of leading scientists that includes microbiologists, ecologists, physical oceanographers, biogeochemists, mathematical modellers and policy advisors. With assistance from organisations like CEFAS, Marine Scotland and AFBI, they will carry out a series of research cruises around the UK that will map the sensitivity and status of seabed habitats based on their physical condition, the microbial and faunal communities that inhabit them, and the size and dynamics of the nitrogen and carbon pools found there. The latest marine technologies will measure the amount of mixing and flow rates just above the seabed, as well as detailed seabed topography. These measurements will allow better understanding of the physical processes responsible for movement and mixing of sediment, nutrient, and carbon. At the same time, cores will be retrieved containing the microbial and faunal communities and their activity and behaviour will be linked to specific biogeochemical responses. Highly specialised autonomous vehicles, called landers, will also measure nutrient concentrations and fluxes at the seabed. Components of the system can then be experimentally manipulated to mimic scenarios of change, such as changing hydrodynamics, disturbance or components of climate change. This will be achieved in the field by generating different flow regimes using a submerged flume or, in the laboratory, using intact sediment communities exposed to different levels of CO2, temperature and oxygen. By measuring the biogeochemical response and behaviour of the microbial and faunal communities to these changes, we will generate an understanding of what may happen if such changes did occur across our shelf seas. We will use all of this information to assess the relative vulnerability of areas of the UK seabed by overlaying the observation and experimental results over maps of various human pressures, which will be of value to planners and policymakers. Mathematical models will test future scenarios of change, such as opening or closing vulnerable areas to fishing or anticipated changes in the factors that control nutrient and carbon stocks. This will be valuable in exploring different responses to external pressures and for deciding which management measures should be put in place to preserve our shelf seas for future generations

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/J012238/1
    Funder Contribution: 567,582 GBP
    Partners: Unisense A/S, Griffith University, University of Southampton, Partrac Ltd

    Estuaries are more than simply areas of mud and marsh that represent the transition zone between rivers and the ocean. They play a vital role in our economy as sites of leisure and commercial activities, such as fishing and boating. In addition, they are important nursery grounds for many species of economically important fish that later migrate to the open sea. As approximately 40% of the world's population live within 100 km of the coast, estuaries are also some of the most vulnerable sites for impact from man's activities. Not only can they suffer from activities occurring within the estuary itself, but they also mark the point where pollutants gathered by rivers from large areas of the interior can accumulate. One of the major pollution concerns in estuaries arises from the excess river borne concentrations of phosphate and nitrate. These can be derived from a variety of sources, such as run off from fertilised fields and discharge (accidental or purposeful) from sewage treatment plants. Regardless of their source, they can cause severe problems, such as stimulating the growth of excess algal growth that can deplete the water in oxygen and causing widespread fish kills, or causing the growth of poisonous algal species (red tides) that cause shell fish fisheries to be closed. Although this problem has been recognised for some time, and monitoring activities by bodies such as the Environment Agency and water companies play an important role in keeping pollution in check, there are still major gaps in our knowledge. In particular, it is apparent that a large proportion of the flux of nitrate and phosphate are delivered to estuaries by sudden storm events, but most monitoring takes place at fixed times that are spaced too far apart to capture these events. This is a major gap in our knowledge that will become more important as the intensity and frequency of storms are likely to increase due to climate change. Additionally, the phosphate and nitrate load of rivers can take many forms - dissolved and particulate, organic and inorganic - and relatively little is known about the concentrations of these different forms varies throughout the seasons and during storm events. Only if we are able to fully understand these processes will we be able to take the necessary steps to identify and control polluting sources of nitrate and phosphate to estuaries. Our research seeks to address this gap in our knowledge by carrying out detailed monitoring of the many forms of phosphate and nitrate that enter Christchurch Harbour estuary (Dorset) from both the rivers and the sea over the course of a year. We will be using state-of-the-art technology (much of it developed by ourselves) that will allow us to monitor they key parameters at intervals of every 30 minutes. Hence, we will be able to capture the effects of sudden and short-lived storms that have eluded previous studies and routine monitoring practices. We will then use the results of our study to examine how these sudden storm events affect the distribution of phosphate and nitrate within the estuary. In particular, we will examine what happens when sediments are stirred up in the estuary by storms - do they remove or add phosphate and nitrate to the system? We will also examine the effects of these sudden storms on the biological activity in the estuary. Again, do they increase or decrease the growth of algae, and what difference is there if the storm happens in the summer or the winter? The various threads of our study will be drawn together into a powerful statistical model that will allow us to better understand the transfer of phosphate and nitrate from rivers, through estuaries and into the coastal seas, and the role that storms play in this process. Our results will then allow policy makers to make more informed decisions about how we can seek to reduce pollution of estuaries by nitrate and phosphate.

  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I008845/1
    Funder Contribution: 407,529 GBP
    Partners: CTG, University of Bristol, NERC British Antarctic Survey, Montana State University System, University of Edinburgh, EA, Unisense A/S

    Glaciers and ice sheets are one of the least explored parts of the Earth's surface, and are now known to harbor significant populations of micro-organisms despite the challenging environmental conditions (e.g. extreme cold, desiccation, freezing and high pressure under ice sheets). Many of these microbes accelerate chemical weathering and supply nutrients to downstream ecosystems. A better knowledge of these processes is widely recognized as important for understanding: 1) global impacts of glaciers/ice sheets on the cycling of carbon and nutrients 2) biodiversity and life in extreme environments (e.g. Antarctic Subglacial Lakes) and 3) water flow beneath ice sheets as inferred from meltwater chemistry. Currently, the toolkits available to glaciologists to advance knowledge in these areas are very limited, and a technological leap is required to engage fully in future science campaigns. Building on previous work, this proposal aims to develop the first generation of compact chemical sensors for use in glaciers and ice sheets. While much of this technology has been evaluated for use in the oceans, it has not been assessed or modified for application in icy environments. We will take this technology and evaluate its performance under icy conditions (e.g. at low temperature, under freeze/thaw, at high pressure and with glacial meltwater sample types). This will be followed by design changes and further testing, culminating in a final demonstration of prototype instruments in Svalbard, Norwegian Arctic. These developments will provide key and rate limiting technology for future glacial science, and will have application in subglacial lake exploration (e.g. Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, Antarctica), in marine under-ice operations (e.g. Autosub under ice), and across a wide range of icy ecosystems where in situ measurements are desirable. This work is a forerunner to high impact international science campaigns requiring the development of purpose-built measuring systems that employ a comprehensive array of chemical sensor (e.g. the Lake Ellsworth Exploration Programme, the 'Basal Conditions on Rutford Ice Stream: Bed Access, Monitoring and Ice Sheet History' (BEAMISH) and the US-funded WISSARD programme, with which we have strong links). It also has strong relevance to water quality monitoring in freshwater environments, which will be explored via collaboration with the Environment Agency, UK.