Deployment of the KOSMOS mesocosms at Gran Canary. Photo: Ulf Riebesell, GEOMAR

The deep-water collector is used to simulate natural upwelling. Photo: Michael Sswat, GEOMAR

Mesocosm experiment at Gran Canary in March 2016. Photo: Ulf Riebesell, GEOMAR

Sampling the KOSMOS mesocosms at Gando Bay, Gran Canary. Photo: Ulf Riebesell, GEOMAR

Prof. Ulf Riebesell during the mesocosm experiment in Bergen, Norway in 2011. Photo: Stefan Lehmann, Real TV


Prof. Ulf Riebesell awarded with European Research Council grant

Innovative project assesses benefits and risks of forced deep-water upwelling

04 May 2016/Kiel. For the first time, one of the prestigious research grants of the European Research Council (ERC) is awarded to GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. Prof. Ulf Riebesell receives 2.5 million Euros for a project that evaluates opportunities and risks of forced upwelling of nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean into a nutrient-poor surface layer. The approach, which mimics natural processes, might contribute to the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

For the first time, the European Research Council (ERC) awards one of the renowned “ERC Advanced Grants” to a scientist of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. Marine biologist Prof. Ulf Riebesell receives 2.5 million Euros for the research project “Ocean artUp”. Using laboratory and field experiments, modelling and studies in the open ocean, Prof. Riebesell and his team intend to investigate the effects of a technically-induced mixing of the water column. This approach mimics natural upwelling – a process that transports nutrient-rich deep water to the sun-lit surface layer of the ocean and boosts productivity. Applied in the permanent nutrient-poor “ocean deserts” that cover nearly 40 per cent of the seas, it might favour food production and contribute to the development of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. In addition, forced upwelling of deep water can be used to produce renewable energy and is debated as a possible mechanism for carbon dioxide storage in the deep ocean. “Ocean artup” will provide the first comprehensive dataset to evaluate benefits and risks of the different applications of artificial upwelling.

The project funded by the ERC takes advantage of two unique systems successfully developed at GEOMAR – the KOSMOS offshore mesocosm facility and a deep-water collector. Field experiments will be carried out off Gran Canary as part of a cooperation between the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), the research station PLOCAN and GEOMAR. These studies will be complemented by a research cruise investigating oceanic eddies south of the Canaries. Nutrient-rich deep water is naturally drawn to the surface in these eddies, stimulating plankton production and providing fertile grounds for higher trophic levels – which ultimately benefits fisheries in the region. Various modelling techniques will be applied to test whether the understanding obtained locally can be extrapolated to other parts of the ocean.

“The ERC grant provides us with an opportunity to assess the feasibility of forced upwelling for the purpose of increasing fish production. Critically important, the grant also helps us to evaluate the associated risks and possible side effects”, Prof. Riebesell explains. “So far, we know very little about possible effects of this approach on marine life and biogeochemical cycles. This is key to understanding whether this intervention in the complex marine ecosystem is ecologically sensible and economically viable.”

“We are very pleased that for the first time GEOMAR receives one of these highly distinguished research grants”, says GEOMAR director Prof. Peter Herzig. “This is an outstanding recognition for Prof. Riebesell and his team. Already in 2012, Prof. Riebesell demonstrated that he is one of the top scientists at GEOMAR when he received the prestigious Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – the most highly endowed science award in Germany.”

The European Research Council (ERC)
The University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC)
The Plataforma Oceánica de Canarias (PLOCAN)

Maike Nicolai (GEOMAR, Communication & Media), Tel.: (+49) 0431 600-2807,