The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) has enabled scientists to determine that a long-term shift in nitrogen content in the Pacific Ocean has occurred as a result of climate change. Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the University of California – Santa Cruz analyzed deep-sea corals gathered near the Hawaiian Islands using the HURL Pisces V submersible. They observed overall nitrogen fixation in the North Pacific Ocean has increased by about 20 percent since the mid 1800s and this long-term change appears to be continuing today, according to a study published recently in the journal, Nature.
Using chemical information locked in organic skeletal layers, the team used these ancient deep corals as detailed recorders of changes at the base of the open Pacific food web over the last 1,000 years. This represents the first detailed biogeochemical records for the planet’s largest contiguous ecosystem. This type of sample is only available using deep-diving submersibles, such as those operated by HURL.