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For the 40 day mission, the scientists and crew will experience a hectic program of ocean and atmosphere sampling - from the free floating phytoplankton, bacteria and viruses in the very surface waters of the ocean, to the atmospheric (including volcanic ash) particles falling in the sea. We will study the effects of volcanic ash on the growth of phytoplankton and other organisms in biological experiments conducted in bottles on the aft deck of the vessel.
This is the second cruise this year to the study region. The first cruise took place over a period of 12 days in April-May 2010, with the aim to observe the biological and chemical conditions in the ocean before the large spring bloom starts. This first cruise unexpectedly observed some large Icelandic volcanic ash (from Eyjafjallajökull) inputs to the ocean. We will now go back to the Irminger and Iceland Basin region and see how the phytoplankton blooms have developed,  and investigate whether the phytoplankton in the study region are growth limited because of a lack of iron, or whether the volcanic ash (and iron) inputs have supplied sufficient iron to sustain the spring blooms.
The sub-polar Atlantic Ocean is a globally important ocean region, as it is a sink for atmospheric CO2, and an area where deep water formation takes place. Potential iron limitation of CO2 absorbing phytoplankton would result in an inefficient atmospheric CO2 uptake by the ocean.
 

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