Now, another previously unknown part of the carbon cycle is known: deep sea fish

From the University of Southampton

Deep sea fish remove 1 million tonnes of CO2 every year from UK and Irish waters

This is a deep sea lizard fish (Bathysaurus ferox) from 2000m depth on the continental slope off the west coast of Scotland.

Deep sea fishes remove and store more than one million tonnes of CO2 from UK and Irish surface waters every year, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

This natural carbon capture and storage scheme could store carbon equivalent to £10 million per year in carbon credits.

Fish living in deep waters on the continental slope around the UK play an important role carrying carbon from the surface to the seafloor. 

It is assumed that deep water fishes all depend on particles that fall from the surface for their energy. These bottom-living deep water fishes never come to the surface and the carbon in their bodies stays at the seafloor. However, at mid-slope depths there is an abundant and diverse ecosystem where a huge volume of animals make daily vertical migrations to feed at the surface during the night. The animals conducting this migration then transport nutrients from the surface back to the deep.

This shows a group of hatchet fish: one kind of the diverse group of mid water fishes that transport carbon from the surface to deep waters.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and Marine Institute, Ireland used novel biochemical tracers to piece together the diets of deep-water fish revealing their role in transferring carbon to the ocean depths.

They found that more than half of all the fishes living on the seafloor get their energy from animals that otherwise go back to the surface, and not from settling particles. These bottom-living fishes therefore become a carbon capture and storage facility. Global peaks in abundance and biomass of animals at mid slope depths occur because this is the depth range where the vertically migrating animals are most easily captured by fishes that live at or near the seafloor.

These are smootheads: deep water fish that play a major role in trapping carbon in deep waters of the North Atlantic.

Lead author, Dr Clive Trueman from the University of Southampton, says: “As fishing, energy extraction and mining extend into deeper waters, these unfamiliar and seldom seen fishes in fact provide a valuable service to all of us. Recognising and valuing these ecosystem services is important when we make decisions about how to exploit deep water habitats for food, energy or mineral resources.”

As it is difficult to study animals living under a kilometre or more of water, the researchers measured forms, or isotopes, of carbon and nitrogen, in the muscles of fish caught in deepwater research surveys on the continental slope west of Ireland, at water depths ranging from 500 to 1800m. These were collected on the RV Celtic Explorer, a multi-disciplinary research vessel operated by the Irish Marine Institute.

Small differences in the mass of these isotopes mean that they are processed at slightly different speeds in the body, leading to patterns which can show who eats who in the slope ecosystem. By measuring the isotopes in all of the most common species, the researchers were able to estimate how much carbon is captured and stored by these deep water fish.

The study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was funded by the University of Southampton and the Marine Institute.

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37 thoughts on “Now, another previously unknown part of the carbon cycle is known: deep sea fish

  1. According to one source, man puts about 26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. So fish sequestering 1 megatonne is “a spit in the ocean?”

  2. So, eventually these fish die and rotting produces methane………….

    Another GHG fear fostered by Southampton University to join all the others.

  3. “…one million tonnes of CO2 from UK and Irish surface waters every year…”

    Out of the estimated 500 million tonnes emitted by UK/Ireland. We’re saved! – Nature is going to eat all our CO2! It’s just a few years behind, and will take a few more years to catch up :-( Remember too the quarter to a third of our CO2 that the oceans also absorb

    Wait just a minute! The one million is already included in that.

  4. John S. says:
    June 4, 2014 at 3:59 am

    According to one source, man puts about 26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. So fish sequestering 1 megatonne is “a spit in the ocean?”
    ___________________________
    So what?
    If a dollar amount of $10,000 were assigned to a volume of air, the sum total of mankind’s historical contribution of CO2 to that volume could be likened to 1 penny, or about 1 part per million.

  5. No suprise to see climastrologists studying piscine carbon sequestration. They are, after all, so far out of their depth the fish have lights on their noses…

    “Adding radiative gases to the atmosphere will reduce the atmosphere’s radiative cooling ability”?? You don’t get further from daylight than that!

    I wonder if those fishies ate Travesty Trenberths last lame excuse?

  6. So, what happens when these fish die and the CO2 ” re-enters” the seas and the atmosphere?
    Obviously , long ago in earth’s history this MUST have occurred , for how else can THE MANY historical warm periods be explained?
    Further, these deep sea critters must have engaged in lengthy and massive sexual orgies, greatly magnifying their population, which clearly CAUSED the MANY ice ages.
    Oops, forgot that during some of the ice ages, CO2 levels were HIGHER than today’s; so strike my latter comment.

  7. @ John S. says: June 4, 2014 at 3:59 am
    “According to one source, man puts about 26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. So fish sequestering 1 megatonne is “a spit in the ocean?”

    If you’d read the report (“…from UK and Irish surface waters…” ), it’s a bigger globule than realise. Try comparing like-with-like.

  8. Isn’t it sad that someone who wants to study deep sea fish feels obliged to include a carbon reference. I presume we can blame his sponsors?

  9. Surely there is something more interesting to learn about deep sea fish other than how much “carbon” the sequester? Was this really the point of this particular research, or was that just the mandatory obeisance to global warming dogma to qualify for funding? Now what we urgently need to know is how increasing the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin impacts the overall GHG balance. I think there’s an app for that; if not a few million dollars in grants should suffice to create one.

  10. The talk in all those shamrock pubs:
    Strange fishies have a feast
    and balance all the skyward plumes
    from Guiness’ brewers yeast

  11. Many years ago I did some collabaritive work with S.U. They were doing some really useful work. It seems that has come to an end with the wealth of taxpayer’s money available for other more useless research.

  12. Alan Watt, says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:35 am

    My thought too, sort of food for thought.. I guess when they finally get around to taxing air that we humans breathe, these could be important metrics, but they are thought provoking and I think I have learned something – that must be good.

  13. Alan Robertson says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:12 am

    If a dollar amount of $10,000 were assigned to a volume of air, the sum total of mankind’s historical contribution of CO2 to that volume could be likened to 1 penny, or about 1 part per million. correction: 100- 120 ppm

  14. Why was CO2 sequestration even part of this study? Shouldn’t this have been a straight-up marine biology story? It just shows how deeply the AGW agenda has polluted all branches of science.

  15. John S. says:
    June 4, 2014 at 3:59 am
    According to one source, man puts about 26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. So fish sequestering 1 megatonne is “a spit in the ocean?”

    And the proposed EPA regs that will devastate the American economy will change average global temps by 0.018 degree C, according to the EPA’s own analysis. Isn’t that less than a “spit in the ocean” and at much higher cost, too?

  16. They carry carbon from the surface to the depths of the sea? So how do they wiegh down the carbon (coal? topsoil? Iphones?) to sink it in the first place? Lead weights? Maybe this explains why the ocean is getting ‘more acid’?

  17. This natural carbon capture and storage scheme could store carbon equivalent to £10 million per year in carbon credits.

    So how will they be paid? Piscine Pesos?

    There’s something fishy about the payment assumptions!

  18. “This natural carbon capture and storage scheme could store carbon equivalent to £10 million per year in carbon credits.”

    How long before a scam artist starts a “fish based” investment scheme, targeting gullible punters with offers of ridiculously large returns?

  19. sounds to me like they want to find a way to stop deep sea energy extraction.

    also, Mods the WP login page (clicking wp icon to login under the post is https and tossing cert name mismatch error

  20. Where CO2 is stored is really of little importans, as long as the level in the air is increasing. Whatever the effect will be, only the differense between produced and stored CO2 matters.

  21. The next government is going to have an inspectorate that goes around unplugging computers of people doing this sort of thing. Sheesh, if I discovered this, I’d be too embarrassed to report it. I suppose it’s only a step away from people around UK and Ireland having to pay a tax of $10million a year for drilling for rowing around the surface at night or drilling for oil.

  22. “Recognising and valuing these ecosystem services …”

    ‘ecosystem services’ is phrase the UN and others have been trying to push for years. It is geared towards monetising the circle of life. If these fish capture £10 million worth of CO2 a year then the state will want £10 million from the public if there was a CO2 tax as it will claim it is managing the environment and protecting that ‘service’. And if it isn’t the state then it will be an appointed lobby group keen to be handed an immediate and ongoing revenue stream.

  23. Robin Hewitt says:
    June 4, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Isn’t it sad that someone who wants to study deep sea fish feels obliged to include a carbon reference. I presume we can blame his sponsors?

    Yup. I think that sums it up.

  24. Alan Robertson says:
    June 4, 2014 at 5:25 am

    As you know, 400 ppm means four parts per 10,000, so if the human contribution be 100 ppm, that works out to one of those ten thousand dollars. But that’s in dry air. In the tropics, you’d have to add 40,000 ppm of water vapor, far & away the main GHG, or $400 in your analogy, which I like.

    Since the tropics is where the water vapor is densest, the positive feedback effect unjustifiably assumed in the climate models should be concentrated there, along with the expected heat, but of course that has not been observed in reality. (Very little atmospheric water vapor increase can be induced during cold, dark polar winter nights, no matter how much CO2 you add to the air there.) Nor indeed has the atmosphere heated sooner & more than the surface, as also predicted by the GHG hypothesis to explain whatever warming has been observed since AD 1850. Failure upon failure of the falsified hypothesis.

    As for the fish, however small the effect, it just shows how little science knows of sinks in the world’s carbon cycle. That the ignorance of “climate science” is immense at least is settled for now.

  25. John S. says:
    June 4, 2014 at 3:59 am

    According to one source, man puts about 26 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. So fish sequestering 1 megatonne is “a spit in the ocean?”
    ——–
    Note: “Fish living in deep waters on the continental slope around the UK” How much more may be contributed by other fish living in deep waters on the continental slopes in the rest of the world?

    But the main point of this is to illustrate something I see in the science news almost weekly – further proof that we essentially _don’t know squat_ about all of the potential factors that can affect climate. I like the rare honesty of this guy:

    Part of a speech delivered by David Victor of the University of California, San Diego, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as part of a seminar series titled “Global Warming Denialism: What science has to say” (Special Seminar Series, Winter Quarter, 2014):

    “First, we in the scientific community need to acknowledge that the science is softer than we like to portray. The science is not “in” on climate change because we are dealing with a complex system whose full properties are, with current methods, unknowable. The science is “in” on the first steps in the analysis—historical emissions, concentrations, and brute force radiative balance—but not for the steps that actually matter for policy. Those include impacts, ease of adaptation, mitigation of emissions and such—are surrounded by error and uncertainty. I can understand why a politician says the science is settled—as Barack Obama did…in the State of the Union Address, where he said the “debate is over”—because if your mission is to create a political momentum then it helps to brand the other side as a “Flat Earth Society” (as he did last June). But in the scientific community we can’t pretend that things are more certain than they are.”

  26. Winston says:
    June 4, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Much as Dr. Victor’s comments are a step in the right direction, he left out the vital middle ground that is still also uncertain at best. That is, between the first steps in the analysis he mentions & the policy considerations lie the effects of those first steps on the actual climate system. Here the science is most unsettled, including the key question of feed backs, without which being positive there can be no catastrophic man-made global warming from increased CO2 or other products of human activity.

  27. There will come a time – sooner rather than later IMO – when such people have somewhat more important things to worry about than infinitesimal changes in the concentration of a trace gas whose major function is to enable the growth of plants.

    Just a thought.

  28. milodonharlani says:
    June 4, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Alan Robertson says:
    June 4, 2014 at 5:25 am

    As you know, 400 ppm means four parts per 10,000, so if the human contribution be 100 ppm, that works out to one of those ten thousand dollars.
    Yes. The abacus in my brain didn’t start working until after my coffee pot did it’s job. I’d caught one of my 2 math errors, but not that one, thanks.

  29. I like to eat. As a matter of fact, all the food I eat contains carbon. How do I go about getting paid for the carbon sequestration I am doing?

  30. Alan,
    Loved the poem. Made me laugh first thing today. And it’s only “highly likely” that humans have contributed more than half of the increase….or some official crap like that…so 50-60 cents max. That’s all I am willing to pay.

  31. Biology and accountancy dont mix. Biology should be about the complex emergent wonders of form and function and the beauty, ingenuity and savagery of life strategies. Bean-counting carbon or energy or anything else is a self-delusional and futile descent into the dismal science. It does not add to knowledge. Rid biology of this numerical nonsense!

  32. “Previously unknown”? But surely this factor was built into all of the comprehensive computer models, in which the “scientists” have 97% confidence! If not, why not.

  33. Little fishies have a bite to eat, taking some tasty Co2 with them. Get to 1000+Km deep, have a burp and a little bubble of Co2 begins it’s adventure back to the surface.

    Eamon.

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