Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean's carbon budget balanced: Supply of food to midwater organisms balanced with demands for food

Date:
March 20, 2014
Source:
National Oceanography Centre
Summary:
Ocean scientists have, for the first time successfully balanced the supply of food to midwater organisms with their demands for this food. The depth at which they consume this sinking material regulates our climate by determining how much carbon is stored by the ocean and how much remains in the atmosphere. The study in the North Atlantic focuses on 'marine snow' -- bacteria, microscopic animals and sinking organic matter.

Marine copepods.
Credit: photo courtesy of Daniel Mayor

Ocean scientists have, for the first time successfully balanced the supply of food to midwater organisms with their demands for this food. The depth at which they consume this sinking material regulates our climate by determining how much carbon is stored by the ocean and how much remains in the atmosphere.

The results of the study in the North Atlantic are published in the journal Nature this week. The research focuses on 'marine snow' -- bacteria, microscopic animals and sinking organic matter.

Dr Richard Sanders, Head of Ocean Biology and Ecosystems at the National Oceanography Centre explained: "Phytoplankton -- marine plants -- grow in the surface ocean using CO2 and sunlight to produce biomass in the same way that terrestrial plants do. This links atmospheric CO2 to the processes in the oceans and it is this 'ocean carbon budget' that we are keen to quantify."

When phytoplankton die, they sink to depth and transport atmospheric CO2 into the deep ocean. Massive quantities of CO2 are stored in the deep ocean this way, keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations much lower than if the oceans were devoid of life.

"When predicting future atmospheric CO2 levels, it is important to understand how much marine snow is sinking to depth and where it is being consumed."

Most of the food supplied to the deep sea sinks from the upper ocean in the form of marine snow, flakes of marine detritus -- dead plant and animal plankton and plankton faeces. Animals living in the 'twilight zone', a layer between 50-1000 metres depth where light levels are extremely low, eat most of this marine snow.

Previous attempts to explain the loss of marine snow with biological activity in the twilight zone have failed, suggesting that the understanding of the processes within the ocean was incomplete.

"We show that a balance between food supply and demand is possible because of intricate linkages between zooplankton and microbes," explained lead author Dr Sarah Giering. "When these microscopic animals eat marine snow, much of it is released as tiny suspended particles that are readily available to bacteria, which in turn convert it into biomass and CO2."

Dr Daniel Mayor from the University of Aberdeen, a co-author of the research, said:"The apparently wasteful process of zooplankton fragmenting, rather than ingesting, sinking detritus is central to understanding how the twilight zone works.

"CO2 released at depth can stay there for thousands of year, providing a natural mechanism for carbon storage."

"This release is important, because marine snow is made of phytoplankton, microscopic plants that take up atmospheric CO2," continued Dr Giering.

"Our findings are a major step forward, allowing us to explore the role of deep‐sea biota regulating our climate," said Dr Sarah Giering.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sarah L. C. Giering, Richard Sanders, Richard S. Lampitt, Thomas R. Anderson, Christian Tamburini, Mehdi Boutrif, Mikhail V. Zubkov, Chris M. Marsay, Stephanie A. Henson, Kevin Saw, Kathryn Cook, Daniel J. Mayor. Reconciliation of the carbon budget in the ocean’s twilight zone. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13123

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre. "Ocean's carbon budget balanced: Supply of food to midwater organisms balanced with demands for food." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320115802.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre. (2014, March 20). Ocean's carbon budget balanced: Supply of food to midwater organisms balanced with demands for food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320115802.htm
National Oceanography Centre. "Ocean's carbon budget balanced: Supply of food to midwater organisms balanced with demands for food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140320115802.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins