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The Seasonality of Oceanic Carbon Cycling

The global carbon cycle depends on the biological carbon pump in the ocean. Surface phytoplankton captures carbon, stores it in cell walls, and transfers the…

Thursday, Mar 03

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The global carbon cycle depends on the biological carbon pump in the ocean. Surface phytoplankton captures carbon, stores it in cell walls, and transfers the element to the ocean deep after the algae die. Now, researchers are looking at how the seasons might affect this process. Credit: NOAA National Ocean Service/Wikimedia Commons , public domain Source: Global Biogeochemical Cycles

The ebb and flow of carbon within Earth’s systems are complex and ever-moving occurrences. Carbon is a nomadic element, traveling between the atmosphere, ocean, and the soil, rock, and ice of the planet, changing forms along the way. Much of this cycling takes place in the ocean , partially through a biological carbon pump (BCP). In the BCP, atmospheric carbon is fixed through phytoplankton growing at the surface of the sea. When the phytoplankton dies, carbon particles sink from the surface to deep ocean waters. This carbon can remain for hundreds or even thousands of years before returning to the atmosphere.

In the past, the BCP has been treated as a constant, but the variability of sinking carbon particles has been observed in sediment trap sampling over the past few decades. Now, de Melo Viríssimo et al. look at how the changing seasons can alter the amount and rate of carbon and other nutrients that sink into deep ocean waters.

The researchers used a global ocean biogeochemical model to see how the amount of carbon particles reaching the deep ocean would change with variations in seasonality. In particular, they looked at […]

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