Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed

Mar 17, 2013
Credit: Leslie Carlson

(Phys.org) —Models of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans need to be revised, according to new work by UC Irvine and other scientists published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience. Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought, they found. Global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny Prochlorococcus and other microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated. Carbon dioxide is the leading driver of disruptive climate change.

In making their findings, the researchers have upended a decades-old core principle of marine science known as the Redfield ratio, named for famed oceanographer Alfred Redfield. He concluded in 1934 that from the top of the world's oceans to their cool, dark depths, both plankton and the materials they excrete contain the same ratio (106:16:1) of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

But as any gardener who has done a soil test knows, amounts of those elements can vary widely. The new study's authors found dramatically different ratios at a variety of marine locations. What matters more than depth, they concluded, is latitude. In particular, the researchers detected far higher levels of carbon in warm, nutrient-starved areas (195:28:1) near the equator than in cold, nutrient-rich polar zones (78:13:1).

"The Redfield concept remains a central tenet in and chemistry. However, we clearly show that the ratio in plankton is not constant and thus reject this longstanding central theory for ," said lead author Adam Martiny, associate professor of and ecology & evolutionary biology at UC Irvine. "Instead, we show that plankton follow a strong latitudinal pattern."

He and fellow investigators made seven expeditions to gather big jars of water from the frigid Bering Sea, the North Atlantic near Denmark, mild Caribbean waters and elsewhere. They used a sophisticated $1 million cell sorter aboard the research vessel to analyze samples at the molecular level. They also compared their data to published results from 18 other marine voyages.

Martiny noted that since Redfield first announced his findings, "there have been people over time putting out a flag, saying, 'Hey, wait a minute.'" But for the most part, Redfield's ratio of constant elements is a staple of textbooks and research. In recent years, Martiny said, "a couple of models have suggested otherwise, but they were purely models. This is really the first time it's been shown with observation. That's why it's so important."

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User comments : 26

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dogbert
2 / 5 (26) Mar 17, 2013
Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed


That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models.
Maggnus
3.5 / 5 (19) Mar 17, 2013
Invalidate? No. Alter? Possibly, but not necessarily. Ocean CO2 levels have risen dramatically, to the point where carbolic acid is becoming a problem all over the globe. This article does not give enough infomation on the degree of the carbon sink represented by the plankton.

More importantly, this is a single measure and certainly doesn't invalidate the observations of higher CO2 content in both the ocean and our atmosphere.
EyeNStein
1.4 / 5 (11) Mar 17, 2013
'sophisticated $1 million cell sorter'.
Then next week someone writes a iPhone camera app for 69p that posts its results on the www.
EyeNStein
2.1 / 5 (11) Mar 17, 2013
There should be bio-entrepreneurs queing up to sink surplus CO2 and turn it into fish farm food or bio-fuel.
Though the location is critical, we dont want a red bloom killing all the bio-diversity, if badly chosen.
Ducklet
3 / 5 (11) Mar 17, 2013
The subject (and implied if not spelled out conclusion) refers to absolute amounts of carbon. The study is about ratios. The proverbial apples and oranges applies here.
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (9) Mar 17, 2013
The subject (and implied if not spelled out conclusion) refers to absolute amounts of carbon. The study is about ratios. The proverbial apples and oranges applies here.


Good point, you're right.
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (17) Mar 17, 2013
Quite the opposite actually. The models have an emperically tuned ocean uptake parameter determined from the known rate of emissions and estimated uptake by land biomass.

"That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models." - DogTard

What this will do is relax the heuristic parameterization of that variable and allow for more accurate modeling.

Poor DogberTard. Always clueless.
maowcat
2.6 / 5 (17) Mar 17, 2013
Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed


That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models.


Will you please shut up?
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (25) Mar 17, 2013
"Carbon dioxide is the leading driver of disruptive climate change."

Prove it. Prove nothing else has changed.
Shootist
2.1 / 5 (19) Mar 17, 2013
Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed


That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models.


Hoss, when the, so called, models can accurately predict the last 100 or 200 years, from known data, they will actually rise to the level of useful.

"The polar bears will be fine." - Freeman Dyson
Shootist
1.9 / 5 (17) Mar 17, 2013
Gaia, that treacherous slut, has made so much oil and gas that her faithful acolytes today cannot protect her from the consequences of her own folly. . . .

Again, for people who base their claim to world leadership on their superior understanding of the dynamics of complex systems, greens prove over and over again that they are surprisingly naive and crude in their ability to model and to shape the behavior of the political and economic systems they seek to control. If their understanding of the future of the earth's climate is anything like as wish-driven, fact-averse and intellectually crude as their approach to international affairs, democratic politics and the energy market, the greens are in trouble indeed.

"The polar bears will be fine" - Freeman Dyson.
eachus
2 / 5 (8) Mar 17, 2013
Invalidate?

Not about climate change/global warming, but...

Yes, invalidate. I see so many people get this wrong here and elsewhere. The software that runs the model may be perfect, but if the input is flawed, garbage in garbage out.

If you rerun the software with new data, that is a different model. You may hope that the new data is more accurate, or you may be running sensitivity analysis, or a model for a different planet or ocean, or whatever.

Sorry, to be a nit picker here, but this can lead to lots of yelling at scientific meetings. A valid model is one with valid relationships between the (model) elements and valid starting data. There are lots of useful but invalid models. To give an example, a weather predicting model may have started with yesterday's data. Even if its predictions for today's weather were not perfect, the predictions for tomorrow will be useful. (Since it takes hours to run the major weather models, that is the normal state of affairs.)
thermodynamics
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2013
Magnus: You said: "...to the point where carbolic acid is becoming a problem all over the globe."

I think you made a typo and used "carbolic acid" when you meant to use "carbonic acid."

The thought process was correct but the word was not.
VendicarE
3.7 / 5 (12) Mar 18, 2013
Which of the thousands of papers printed in the science journal Nature do you wish us to cite, yet again?

"Prove it." - ParkerTard

http://www.youtub...PSrRpq_g
ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (14) Mar 18, 2013
The subject (and implied if not spelled out conclusion) refers to absolute amounts of carbon. The study is about ratios. The proverbial apples and oranges applies here.
You're wrong. The study clearly infers the absolute amounts of carbon being higher than the Redfield ratio.

From the abstract:

"We show that the elemental ratios of marine organic matter exhibit large spatial variations, WITH A GLOBAL AVERAGE THAT DIFFERS SUBSTANTIALLY FROM THE CANONICAL REDFIELD RATIO (all caps for emphasis added). However, elemental ratios exhibit a clear latitudinal trend. Specifically, we observed a ratio of 195:28:1 in the warm nutrient-depleted low-latitude gyres, 137:18:1 in warm, nutrient-rich upwelling zones, and 78:13:1 in cold, nutrient-rich high-latitude regions."

NikFromNYC
2.3 / 5 (16) Mar 18, 2013
"Carbon dioxide is the leading driver of disruptive climate change."

Seventeen years and counting of stagnant T as China alone puts us in an extreme emissions era...and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) has began its natural thirty year long plunge back to cold temperatures as the sun enters an unpredicted extreme minimum in activity. And now Mike "Hockey Stick" Mann has 20+ Facebook posts about a new hockey stick that validates his bad math, but the uptick at the end, it too is nowhere to be seen in plots of the input data! Bye bye Science paper. At what point does a *pattern* of debunked papers become FRAUD?

http://s17.postim...tick.jpg
thermodynamics
3 / 5 (10) Mar 18, 2013
"Carbon dioxide is the leading driver of disruptive climate change."

Seventeen years and counting of stagnant T as China alone puts us in an extreme emissions era...and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) has began its natural thirty year long plunge back to cold temperatures as the sun enters an unpredicted extreme minimum in activity. And now Mike "Hockey Stick" Mann has 20 Facebook posts about a new hockey stick that validates his bad math, but the uptick at the end, it too is nowhere to be seen in plots of the input data! Bye bye Science paper. At what point does a *pattern* of debunked papers become FRAUD?

http://s17.postim...tick.jpg


So, I assume you did not bother to read the actual Science paper, just a website financed by the Koch brothers. If you read the paper it would show that the hockey stick was very close with the information available at the time. Or, can you read?
Egleton
2 / 5 (12) Mar 18, 2013
A bit of good news at last, notable for its uniqueness.
Does this mean we can dump 1700 million tons of carbon into an atmosphere 10 kms thick?
Hardly.
QuixoteJ
2 / 5 (10) Mar 18, 2013
Cool stuff. I'm more surprised that the article was allowed to be published. Yay for science.
triplehelix
2 / 5 (13) Mar 18, 2013
"Invalidate? No. Alter? Possibly, but not necessarily."

Only an AGW loon would read how something has had a 100% increase and state it probably won't even alter anything.

I also find it funny how people here tend to end peoples usernames with "tard" if they don't agree with the dogma. That's how true science is done!

The paper at least shows that our current models and knowledge is not as accurate as it could be, thusly, the science is not "settled" otherwise we wouldn't be miscalculating things by 100%... Hell I felt embaressed at work finding a 0.048% discrepancy and these environmental science boys shrug off 100%....Oh how I wish I could do fake science, it seems so easy.
triplehelix
2.2 / 5 (14) Mar 18, 2013
Quite the opposite actually. The models have an emperically tuned ocean uptake parameter determined from the known rate of emissions and estimated uptake by land biomass.

"That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models." - DogTard

What this will do is relax the heuristic parameterization of that variable and allow for more accurate modeling.

Poor DogberTard. Always clueless.


I agree it will allow more accurate modelling, the issue here is that this means previous models were not as accurate.

Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting just because we don't know the full story we shouldn't bother. But, and this is a big but, maybe env. sciences should stop shouting in our faces about things they continuously get wrong, and have to continuously update. How about they give a cautionary glance while obtaining as many facts as possible, rather than spitting out rage statements of "the science is settled" (which is ironically un-scientific). Egg on face times ahead.
triplehelix
1.9 / 5 (13) Mar 18, 2013
Oh ho ho, the 1/5 ranking has begun!

Amazing how I can get rated 1/5 by saying

"If a model is improved, the previous one must have been less accurate" By definition improvement means the predecessor was not as good...I mean this is just basic stuff that people aren't agreeing with. If you're boasting extra accuracy you have to admit previous models werent good. I don't see Intel bigging up their 250Mhz processors as if they can perform just as well as the i7, so why are enviro-hero's trying to say even when models are improved, the old ones still work just as well?

Excellent stuff, next I'll be lynched for saying new cars have better engineering than ones 90 years ago! haha
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (12) Mar 18, 2013
Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed


That has got to invalidate a lot of AGW models.


You cannot invalidate what's wrong in the first place.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (11) Mar 18, 2013
Actually, you can invalidate a bad model in many ways.
Lino235
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 18, 2013
Vendicar tells us:


What this will do is relax the heuristic parameterization of that variable and allow for more accurate modeling.



What gibberish, Vendicar! "Heuristic parameterization". Wow!

IOW, you don't know "up from down", so now you can move on from pure guesswork.

BTW, did you see the article today about magma activity, you know, the idea I put forth and that you wanted to so readily dismiss.

The way you want to quash anything that appears at all to question AGW makes me suspect somebody's paying you a whole lot of money to keep the 'myth' alive.

When will all this nonsense end? When will the taxpayer's money stop going to rich industrialists and start going the poor countries and needy individuals? Any answer?
TrinityComplex
1.3 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2013
If there's a carbon sink that is twice as good as was originally thought, doesn't that just mean that emission (natural or man made, whatever the source) is just higher than anticipated based on measured atmospheric levels?

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