CSIR joins international science community to improve understanding of ocean metabolism

17th April 2024

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer


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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has recently joined a new global research programme focused on improving understanding of the future state of the oceans under various climate change scenarios.

Led by CSIR principal researcher Dr Tommy Ryan-Keogh, the programme, titled BioGeoSCAPES, includes participation by over 30 countries. 

BioGeoSCAPES is a global-scale research programme aimed at improving understanding of the microbial biogeochemistry of the oceans.

The CSIR notes that Ryan-Keogh’s participation ensures the representation of Africa, with a vision to assume a key role in global ocean leadership.

“His involvement is pivotal in advancing awareness and facilitating meaningful contributions to international discussions, particularly those that affect the current United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030),” it says.

Historically, several scientific communities have been able to measure the different biological and chemical components of the ocean system.

However, the CSIR points out that establishing connections between these components to gain a holistic understanding of how the ocean system works is challenging.

“This is especially crucial in understanding how human perturbations may alter the biogeochemical cycles of the oceans,” the CSIR adds.

Leveraging advancements in technology over the past decade, including omic and micronutrient measurement techniques, the BioGeoSCAPES programme seeks to bridge them with a numerical pipeline that integrates computational biology and ocean biogeochemical modelling.

The programme will then be able to assess how the earth’s life support system and processes are underpinned by microbial biogeochemical cycles in the ocean and how their physiological rates may be impacted under a changing climate. 

It is anticipated that BioGeoSCAPES will create the first global-scale microbial maps, revealing the distribution of microbes and their genes across every ocean basin. 

The CSIR says this endeavour will be underpinned by robust interoperable data standards and intercalibration efforts to which nations worldwide can contribute and in which they can participate.

“By getting as many countries as possible to participate in the programme and carry out these measurements, we can generate more robust information for policymakers. Improving our capabilities in this regard will undoubtedly lead to more effective ocean governance and stewardship,” says Ryan-Keogh.

Over the next several years, BioGeoSCAPES will host virtual and in-person activities to prioritise and plan foundational components of a collaborative international initiative. These include modelling and data integration, standardisation and intercalibration, and bioinformatics and data management. 

As a member of the BioGeoSCAPES Scientific Steering Committee, the CSIR says a key deliverable to look forward to is the International Science Plan that is in the process of being finalised in the coming months.

Ryan-Keogh is jointly leading one of the chapters that is focusing on the fate of the world’s oceans, examining how climate change may impact its metabolism over the coming century.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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