Porcupine Abyssal Plain station

Location of Porcupine Abyssal Plain station
Location of Porcupine Abyssal Plain station

Cool facts or discoveries

The ocean is a natural carbon dioxide sink

The PAP region lies in the North Atlantic. This is a key area of the ocean where carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere to the oceans. This makes the North Atlantic Ocean a natural 'CO2 sink', just like plants, trapping atmospheric CO2.

Credit : Tribann

This is good news for climate change as it reduces the amount of harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But it may be bad news for ocean ecosystems as increased carbon dioxide acidifies the oceans, changing the chemistry and ecosystems.

Credit : Hopcroft/NOAA

The oceans have a maximum capacity and they can only absorb so much carbon dioxide. The rate of CO2 absorption is declining and needs to be monitored carefully.

Credit : Tribann

Climate change in the abyss

Credits: NERC-NOCS

Climate change, man made and natural is affecting phytoplankton abundance and distribution in surface waters. Dead marine plants (phytoplankton) sink down to the sea bed and are food for animals like sea cucumbers living nearly 5 kilometres down on the seafloor.

Credit : NOCS

In one season, sea cucumber numbers increased from just one or two animals per football pitch-sized area to over 6000 immediately after peaks in food supply. Sea cucumbers live on the sea bed and pick out food particles from the sediment. In this way, climate change really can affect life in the deep sea.

Changes to the environment affect the fish and ecosystem

The Porcupine Abyssal Plain is an extremely remote, open ocean site. But changes at this site may still affect coastal areas and fisheries. Scientists are seeing a shift in both the water mass movement and the mixing of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Credit : © Oceanopolis / D.Barthélémy

This is affecting the timing of the blooms of microscopic plants in the oceans, just like we are seeing seasons changing on land. This may affect the amount and types of fish that are supported in the North Atlantic Ocean. If fish populations reduce or move elsewhere, there will be even fewer fish for humans to eat and the ocean ecosystem will also change

Scientists or technicians in charge of the observatory

Dr. Richard Lampitt
Dr. David Billett

Name of their institution

National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton, England

Distance from shore

300 nautical miles (~1.5 days steaming at 8-9 knots)

Max depth

4800 m