Design, construction, and operation of an actively controlled deep-sea CO2 enrichment experiment using a cabled observatory system

We describe the design, testing, and performance of an actively controlled deep-sea Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (dp-FOCE) system for the execution of seafloor experiments relating to the impacts of ocean acidification on natural ecosystems. We used the 880 m deep MARS (Monterey Accelerated Research Initiative) cable site offshore Monterey Bay, California for this work; but the Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) system concept is designed to be scalable and can be modified to be used in a wide variety of ocean depths and locations. The main frame is based on a flume design with active thruster control of flow and a central experimental chamber. The unit was allowed to free fall to the seafloor and connected to the cable node by remotely operated vehicle (ROV) manipulation. For operation at depth we designed a liquid CO2 containment reservoir which provided the CO2 enriched working fluid as ambient seawater was drawn through the reservoir beneath the more buoyant liquid CO2. Our design allowed for the significant lag time associated with the hydration of the dissolved CO2 molecule, resulting in an e-folding time, τ, of 97 s between fluid injection and pH sensing at the mean local T=4.31±0.14 °C and pHT of 7.625±0.011. The system maintained a pH offset of ~0.4 pH units compared to the surrounding ocean for a period of~1 month. The unit allows for the emplacement of deep-sea animals for testing. We describe the components and software used for system operation and show examples of each. The demonstrated ability for active control of experimental systems opens new possibilities for deep-sea biogeochemical perturbation experiments of several kinds and our developments in open source control systems software and hardware described here are applicable to this end.

Kirkwood W. J., Walz P. M., Peltzer E. T., Barry J. P., Herlien R. A., Headley K. L., Kecy C., Matsumoto G. I., Maughan T., O’Reilly T. C., Salamy K. A., Shane F. & Brewer P. G., in press. Design, construction, and operation of an actively controlled deep-sea CO2 enrichment experiment using a cabled observatory system. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. Article (subscription required).


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