The 2021 survey continues the Marine Institute’s Winter Nutrients monitoring that commenced in 1990/91.
The survey has evolved and expanded during this time period with respect to target areas, parameters and sampling strategy. In 2011 this survey was reestablished as a winter environmental survey with a broader remit to provide supporting information for OSPAR and Water Framework Directive (WFD- Directive 2000/60/EC) assessments and also to maintain the winter time series on key biogeochemical parameters in Irish waters in response to pressures such as land based inputs of nutrients and climate change.
Since 2011 the survey circumnavigates the Island of Ireland every two years, alternating southabout and northabout, starting in the Irish Sea and ending in Galway. This provides a complete coverage of Irelands coastal waters over 2 year periods.
However, given the timing of the surveys, winter by necessity to ensure minimal biological activity and therefore highest concentrations of dissolved nutrients, the weather is a significant factor in determining the actual as opposed to planned coverage of the target stations.
This work is complementary to inshore water quality monitoring activities of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency and Marine Institute and the annual offshore oceanographic survey/climate section (53N/Rockall Trough) on the RV Celtic Explorer led by the Oceans Climate and Information Services group at the Marine Institute.
The 2021 survey was designed to collect multidisciplinary information on physical conditions, water chemistry (dissolved nutrients, total alkalinity (TA), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and salinity), sediment chemistry (persistent organic pollutants POPs and trace metals), sediment particle size distribution and benthic macroinvertebrates (at targeted waterbodies around the coast).
This contributes to data collection needs of various statutory drivers (WFD and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) Directive 2008/56/EC) as well as providing a research dataset on status and changing conditions (trends and variations) for key environmental variables.
As a result of the COVID pandemic, operational adjustments were implemented such that scientific complement on-board was limited to 2-3 persons at any one time.
In light of this, the survey plan was adjusted to allow the survey to be completed in two legs. 1. Leg 1 – Galway – Dublin: benthic macro-invertebrate sampling 2. Leg 2 – Dublin – Galway: winter nutrient, carbon and contaminants sampling. In order to achieve this plan, the number of survey days was increased to 16.