Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Stable isotopes in the study of the impact of increasing CO2 levels on C and Hg cycling in coastal waters

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
1.08.00  Natural sciences and mathematics  Control and care of the environment   

Code Science Field
P305  Natural sciences and mathematics  Environmental chemistry 

Code Science Field
1.05  Natural Sciences  Earth and related Environmental sciences 
stable isotopes, atmospheric CO2, acidification, carbon cycling, marine ecosystem, sensor technologies, mercury, CSIA, the Gulf of Trieste
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (18)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  05249  PhD Jadran Faganeli  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2017 - 2020  574 
2.  10582  PhD Ingrid Falnoga  Neurobiology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  342 
3.  22617  PhD Janja France  Biology  Researcher  2019 - 2020  218 
4.  10454  PhD Andreja Gutmaher  Textile and leather  Researcher  2017 - 2020  159 
5.  05027  PhD Milena Horvat  Chemistry  Researcher  2017 - 2020  1,878 
6.  34499  PhD Katja Klun  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2017 - 2020  111 
7.  25622  PhD David Kocman  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2017 - 2020  355 
8.  22280  PhD Aljoša Košak  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  203 
9.  11600  PhD Nives Kovač  Biology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  290 
10.  50798  PhD Bor Krajnc  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2018 - 2020  63 
11.  01407  PhD Aleksandra Lobnik  Textile and leather  Researcher  2017 - 2020  728 
12.  05226  PhD Vlado Malačič  Hydrology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  366 
13.  32964  PhD Polonca Nedeljko  Chemistry  Researcher  2017 - 2020  36 
14.  11279  PhD Nives Ogrinc  Control and care of the environment  Head  2017 - 2020  1,130 
15.  38496  PhD Doris Potočnik  Chemistry  Researcher  2017 - 2020  187 
16.  28486  PhD Marko Štrok  Energy engineering  Researcher  2017 - 2020  358 
17.  22423  PhD Matejka Turel  Chemistry  Researcher  2017 - 2019  119 
18.  21623  PhD Katarina Vogel Mikuš  Biology  Researcher  2017 - 2020  614 
Organisations (3)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0105  National Institute of Biology  Ljubljana  5055784  13,323 
2.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  89,990 
3.  2772  IOS, Institute for Environmental Protection and Sensors  Maribor  2251914000  1,904 
The world's oceans play a fundamental role in the exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere and constitute an important sink for atmospheric CO2. According to stable C isotope data, indicated oceans absorb one third of the total annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This exchange greatly influences the biogeochemistry of ocean carbon and has a great impact on the acidification of the Earth’s oceans, biological production as well as on the distribution of pollutants. Regarding the cycling of pollutants, mercury, for example, is a toxic and a highly pervasive global pollutant that occurs in the sea in various chemical species of different mobility, bioavailability and reactivity. Methylmercury (MeHg) is the most toxic form and can bioaccumulate and biomagnificate throughout the food web resulting in a variety of ecological and human health impacts. Ocean acidification represents a major environmental problem and a real threat to humanity. The proposed project deals with the use of stable isotopes to better understand the origin and processes of C and Hg in relation to increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 in the coastal marine ecosystem. Combined molecular and multi-isotopic signatures of C and Hg are a rapidly emerging area of research, opening up new ways of studying their sources and fate in the environment. A study of the inorganic and organic carbon flux will provide high-quality data in the Gulf of Trieste (northern Adriatic Sea), an example of an anthropogenically impacted coastal area, which will be further integrated into the currently developed Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON). The results will yield a comprehensive dataset on the carbonate system and organic carbon pool, which will help to identify the processes enhancing marine acidification and its impacts on the coastal marine system. In this context, the project sets out to develop an optical sensor (optode) for measuring in situ the partial pressure of CO2 gas (pCO2). A second experiment (mesocosmos) will also decode how different sources (natural, anthropogenic) of CO2 influence biological systems (phytoplankton) using stable carbon isotopes. Once developed, these methods will find application in other field of research, for example, for detecting CO2 leakage from proposed subsea carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites. In the case of Hg, research will include two techniques representing “state-of-the-art” in the environmental studies, i.e. Hg isotopic composition analyses using multicollector-Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICPMS) and compound specific isotope analysis (CSIA) of C in MeHg. This will provide a better understanding of the complex mechanisms that regulate toxic forms of Hg in the environment and their transfer within the food chain as well as representing an innovative and original contribution to the science. The project results will be important for the management and mitigation of the greenhouse effect in coastal marine areas in the future. The project combines the complementary expertise of two research institutions and SME in Slovenia and four well experience international partners from Italy, France and Canada. The involvement of young researchers will provide a unique opportunity for collaboration, training, transfer of research results into practice and provide a sound basis for career development. Moreover, the effective collaboration with ongoing EU project consortia will provide a forum for further exploitation of the results.
Significance for science
The project meets the criteria for cutting edge research and includes original and novel techniques, which represent “state-of-the-art” in environmental science. The project will bring novel research ideas and findings to the general field of marine biogeochemistry, nationally and internationally and thus enhance Slovenian and European competitiveness in environmental and geo-sciences. The increasing greenhouse effect will be linked to the marine C and Hg distribution, speciation and cycling. The results will yield a unique and comprehensive dataset on carbonate system and organic carbon pool, which will help to identify the processes under laying marine acidification and its impacts on coastal marine system. New sensors will be useful in the field applications and will overcome classical analytical artefacts (sampling, sample handling) and as such provide better control tool in relation to acidification studies. IOS strive to develop sensors as a commercial product that would enable measuring pCO2 in different applications including CCS leakage. Sensor technologies together with the stable isotope approach will represent an important scientific basis for planning of monitoring strategies in marine management of CCS marine sites. Furthermore, the scientific novelty is based on the development of new tools to assess the contamination extent by isotopic information and includes: 1) aquatic multidisciplinary approach to investigate marine Hg isotopic composition variation for further applications in environmental assessments and 2) combination of multi-isotopic information at the molecular level (C, Hg) to constrain dynamics of methylation sources, ecological and contamination effects of natural and anthropogenic inputs. One of the simplest but most important activities of isotopic techniques is to explore compositional diversity, searching for the signatures that will be the foundations of new tools. The ‘space’ we are at least potentially able to explore has expanded greatly in recent years, but most of the discoveries that must follow are still waiting to be made. It should be stressed out that such integrative approaches will be applied for the first time and will open new frontiers in C and Hg biogeochemistry in relation to current and future environmental changes.
Significance for the country
The proposed project will have broader economic and social impact, with particular examples on the impact on public human health. Environmental impact This project will have a direct impact on the environment and quality of life as it will underpin global monitoring, provide a greater understanding of the increasing influence of human activity on the global atmosphere and inform decisions on policy. It will work towards meeting the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol and COP21 to reduce emissions of the most important greenhouse gases. Isotope ratio measurements will help provide a means to distinguishing between anthropogenic and biogenic sources (fossil vs. biogenic fuel combustion), thus affecting both economic and ecologic interests of the European Union, its member states and stakeholders such as energy production industry. The results of the project will provide a refinement of near surface monitoring techniques at CCS offshore sites, useful to identify the origin of CO2 and therefore define if it is attributable to a leakage from CCS. Thus, the outcomes of the proposed work will represent an important scientific basis for planning of monitoring strategies in marine management of CCS marine sites. Social impact Human health impacts are expected to place additional economic stress on health and social support systems. Mercury can seriously harm human health with the presence of methylmercury (MeHg). MeHg is a neurotoxin that can cause long-term development delays in children and has been linked to impaired cardiovascular health in adults. MeHg is the dominant Hg in fish and bioaccumulates in the aquatic food web. Consumption of contaminated fish is a primary vector of human exposure to pollutants. The propose project will provide quality data and new information about the source of MeHg formation in fish in the Gulf of Trieste, which will guide the public health sector in Slovenia on advising population on the consumption of fish. Such information is needed to make cost effective mitigation decisions. Economic impact The effect of ocean acidification on the global and also national economy will depend on adaptations of the marine ecosystem as well as on human adaptation policies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report (IPCC 5th Assessment report, 2014) stated that there is a clear human influence on climate and the longer we wait to reduce our emissions, the more expensive it will become. Thus it is important to make immediate action to better understand the carbonate system and consequence of ocean acidification on a national level that could be further integrated on a global scale. The long-term sampling/collecting strategy including new sensor development to monitor the changes in carbon cycling is proposed. IOS strive to develop sensors as a commercial product that would enable measuring pCO2 in different applications including CCS leakage, which is an important activity for a SME in Slovenia.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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