Mesocosm experiments in ocean alkalinity enhancement research

An essential prerequisite for the implementation of ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE) applications is their environmental safety. Only if it can be ensured that ecosystem health and ecosystem services are not at risk will the implementation of OAE move forward. Public opinion on OAEs will depend first and foremost on reliable evidence that no harm will be done to marine ecosystems and licensing authorities will demand measurable criteria against which environmental sustainability can be determined. In this context mesocosm experiments represent a highly valuable tool in determining the safe operating space of OAE applications. By combining realism and biological complexity with controllability and replication they provide an ideal OAE test bed and a critical stepping stone towards field applications. Mesocosm approaches can also be helpful in testing the efficacy, efficiency and permanence of OAE applications. This chapter outlines strengths and weaknesses of mesocosm approaches, illustrates mesocosm facilities and suitable experimental designs presently employed in OAE research, describes critical steps in mesocosm operation, and discusses possible approaches for alkalinity manipulation and monitoring. Building on a general treatise on each of these aspects, the chapter describes pelagic and benthic mesocosm approaches separately, given their inherent differences. The chapter concludes with recommendations for best practices in OAE-related mesocosm research.

Riebesell U., Basso D., Geilert S., Dale A. W., Kreuzburg M. & Meysman F., 2023. Mesocosm experiments in ocean alkalinity enhancement research. State of the Planet Discussions. Article.

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