Scientific Objectives for the Ocean Thematic Centre

The Marine ICOS network provides the long-term oceanic observations required to understand the present state and predict future behaviour of the global carbon cycle and climate-relevant gas emissions. The oceanic sink currently offsets approximately 25% of CO2 emissions from human activities. Quantifying these fluxes for the Atlantic Ocean is critical for determining the European carbon budget and for accurate accounting of land fluxes. Global and subsurface measurements must also be taken into account to assess the role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle.

The oceanic uptake of CO2 is responsible for ocean acidification, which is expected to have negative consequences for marine ecosystems. Marine ICOS observations will also monitor the progress of ocean acidification.

Net marine fluxes of CO2 vary substantially from year to year and from location to location, and are sensitive to environmental change. Therefore, secure long-term monitoring is crucial for the understanding of variability from seasonal to inter-decadal timescales, the underlying causes of this variability, and the prediction of future variability under expected environmental change.

The monitoring program implemented under the ICOS umbrella will guarantee the maintenance and operation of the observational system in the long term.


The objectives of the ICOS OTC are:

  • Provide comprehensive coordination of the ICOS marine carbon cycle observing network by providing technical support for observations and data management
  • Set and maintain the quality standards of CO2 measurements in marine ICOS through labeling of stations, training, and data quality control  
  • Collaborate with the Carbon Portal for uniform data handling, quality control, and storage in line with standards established across the international community
  • Collaborate with members of the ICOS Research Infrastructure to produce monthly, seasonal, and interannual maps of CO2 sources and sinks in Europe and the adjacent seas
  • Collaborate with the Central Analytical Laboratory to analyse flask samples
  • Ensure high quality calibrations of gas standards for oceanic measurements in collaboration with the Central Analytical Laboratory