Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Primary production as basis for the carrying capacity of the North Sea

Marine photosynthetic plankton (or phytoplankton) are responsible for about half of the global carbon fixation and oxygen production. Net primary production drives the marine food web.

Changes in the composition of the seawater (e.g. nutrient availability, temperature, ocean acidification, sediment load) directly influence phytoplankton production and species composition. Additionally, top-down control by mortality agents (e.g. grazers, pathogens) can be impacted. Subsequently, the overall carrying capacity potential of the North Sea is likely affected.

We use innovative in situ measurements, such as FRRF, to monitor primary production, and develop synoptic approaches using Earth Observation to monitor and model water quality and evaluate the dynamics and long-term trends of turbidity and primary production. The approaches also allow to evaluate the effects of climate changes and artificial structures, such as wind mill parks.

Red or pink water, foam formation and toxic shellfish: plagues already known in biblical times relive in the present North Sea area as Harmful Algal Blooms. We reveal the identity of the culprits and advise how to combat them.