New findings on carbon cycle feed climate research

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A Florida State University researcher is taking a deep dive into the carbon cycle and investigating how carbon moves from the ocean surface to greater depths and then remains there for hundreds of years.

Those findings could be critical as scientists work to better understand climate change and how much the Earth's atmosphere and oceans can store.

In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, FSU Assistant Professor Michael Stukel explains how carbon is transported to deeper waters and why it is happening more rapidly in certain areas of the ocean.

"Algae in the surface ocean contribute half of the Earth's photosynthesis, but most of the carbon dioxide they take up gets released back to the atmosphere when they die," Stukel said. "The only way for this carbon to stay out of the atmosphere for a long period of time is to get it into the deep ocean. If it's in the deep ocean, it can stay put for hundreds to 1,000 years. As the climate gets warmer, will the ocean take up more carbon dioxide or less? That's what we ultimately need to know. But first we have to figure out how this natural process of oceanic carbon storage works."

Stukel, assistant professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, has long engaged in studying how the functions. Specifically, he wants to understand the processes that move carbon into the deep ocean where it will not re-enter the atmosphere. Understanding these processes will be critical as the Earth grows warmer and more carbon dioxide is present.

Stukel, who is part of the California Current Ecosystem Long Term Ecological Research project, set out to find answers to some of these questions while on a research cruise off the California coast in 2012.

Stukel and his colleagues suspected that certain areas of the sea were biological hotspots for carbon transport. Much like meteorological fronts converge to create a storm, there are fronts in bodies of water. These fronts typically form where there is a break in temperature or salinity.

And in these areas, scientists typically find dense and varied aquatic life.

Stukel and his colleagues examined one such front off the coast of Santa Barbara, California and set sediment traps to measure how much carbon was being transported to the deep ocean in these areas.

Stukel and his colleagues found that double the amount of carbon was sinking to greater depths along this front than in other areas of the ocean, and the front itself acted as a giant conduit moving even non-sinking carbon to deeper depths.

One of the reasons for the higher sinking rates may deal with algae health.

Stukel observed that diatoms—a type of algae that makes glass-like shells out of silicon—found at this front were not healthy and were making much denser shells than normal. Diatoms typically also absorb high amounts of carbon dioxide. Krill and other small crustaceans feed on these diatoms, and their fecal pellets then sink, taking large amounts of carbon with them. Because they are absorbing higher rates of silicon at these fronts, they are heavier and sinking to greater depths in the ocean.

"A lot of the carbon transport is mediated by these crustaceans," Stukel said.

Stukel said the information his team uncovered can now be used by scientists who develop models that predict exactly how much can be stored in the . Stukel will also follow up on this work by examining other fronts to see if what he found off the coast of Santa Barbara is a widespread phenomenon.


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More information: Mesoscale ocean fronts enhance carbon export due to gravitational sinking and subduction, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1609435114
Citation: New findings on carbon cycle feed climate research (2017, January 23) retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-01-carbon-climate.html
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Jan 23, 2017
This is such ignominious clap trap! How do idiots like this even, ever, attain a degree? Oh I know, he got it from an American university. No wonder Americans are known to be so functionally illiterate, when it comes to science.

How stupid is this? Here we have a group calling themselves scientists, making nonsensical conclusions based on nonsensical assumptions. The algae and phytoplankton that absorb all that CO2 don't just die and sink to the bottom. They are the base of the food chain and are mostly consumed by other sea creatures; if they weren't, there wouldn't be all those other sea creatures.

This whole conjecture is ludicrous! The carbon absorbed through photosynthesis, is distributed to all living things in the oceans. This IS the "BASE" of the food chain! All other living creatures are dependant on those algae and that carbon is what the rest of the sea life is made of. There is SO MUCH carbon out there swimming around, that it makes whole issue, moot!

Jan 23, 2017
The algae and phytoplankton that absorb all that CO2 don't just die and sink to the bottom. They are the base of the food chain and are mostly consumed by other sea creatures; if they weren't, there wouldn't be all those other sea creatures.!

rodkeh

before criticizing scientists, you really must study the science and make sure you have got your basic scientific facts straight, which you haven't. Not all plankton that dies is consumed by marine animals and much of it ends up trapped, even sometimes fossilized, in ocean sediment on the sea floor and with it the carbon they contain thus locking carbon out of the atmosphere.

https://www.ntnu....-certain
"...
tiny organisms consume carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and move it to marine sediments in the deep ocean in a process called "the biological pump". Currently, more than 99 per cent of the Earth's carbon is bound up in these sediments, locked away in the depths of the ocean.
..."

Jan 23, 2017
New findings on carbon cycle feed climate BOONDOGGLE.

There, fixed it.

Jan 23, 2017
[ Currently, more than 99 per cent of the Earth's carbon is bound up in these sediments, locked away in the depths of the ocean.
..."


What an idiotic statement!

Jan 24, 2017
[ Currently, more than 99 per cent of the Earth's carbon is bound up in these sediments, locked away in the depths of the ocean.
..."


What an idiotic statement!

rodkeh

Nope, just scientific fact:

http://science.ho...ored.htm
"....
But far and away the most carbon on Earth is stored in a surprising place: the ocean. There's estimated to be 38,000 to 40,000 billion metric tons of carbon in the ocean itself with a whopping 66 million to 100 million-billion metric tons of carbon in marine sediments and sedimentary rocks. Those sediments and rocks develop from the hard shells and body parts of marine organisms that have absorbed the carbon in the water. When they die, their bodies sink to the ocean floor, and the hard parts break down into sediment, which later are formed into sedimentary rocks.
..."

Try to study the basic scientific facts before shouting off your ignorant mouth.


Jan 24, 2017
Try to study the basic scientific facts before shouting off your ignorant mouth.


This is all just wild speculation. You wouldn't know a scientific fact if it slapped you up the side of the head!

Jan 24, 2017
rod, why are Deniers so nasty? Please stop the abuse.

I suggest you look up marine sediments and find out if ali of the carbon was eaten like you say or is still there. Easy to check.

Just don't come back with Alternative Facts from the right-wing blogosphere.

Jan 25, 2017
This is such ignominious clap trap! How do idiots like this even, ever, attain a degree? Oh I know, he got it from an American university. No wonder Americans are known to be so functionally illiterate, when it comes to science.
babble....babble...babble


You are just a bubblegum chewing sock of antigracle, citing hot air as evidence and swinging trees.

Jan 25, 2017
rod, why are Deniers so nasty? Please stop the abuse.

I suggest you look up marine sediments and find out if ali of the carbon was eaten like you say or is still there. Easy to check.

Just don't come back with Alternative Facts from the right-wing blogosphere.


New findings on carbon cycle feed climate BOONDOGGLE.

There, fixed it.


New findings reveals too much carbon inside antigoracle's head, BONOBO comes to mind when he thinks about his name.

Jan 25, 2017
rod, why are Deniers so nasty? Please stop the abuse.


Simple, because they cherish 1 simple thing in life, greed, destroying the earth is just another obstacle to overcome as long as they get their fat share of the pie, they could care less of what happens to the earth and everyone on it.

Jan 25, 2017
Carbon is not in the Bible, so it is not important for us living forever in Heaven.

And we KNOW all those stories from the Age of Ignorance are real.

Feb 04, 2017
Our planet's CO2 is at the lowest it has ever been in the history and prehistory of our planet and our planet hasn't been in such poor, ecological health in millennia. Deserts around the planet have been expanding for millennia, it is only in the last few decades, since CO2 started to rise, that our planet has started greening again.

Our planet is dying for lack of CO2 and everyone seems to want to drive the final nail in the coffin. CO2 has nothing to do with climate but everything to do with the food we and every living thing on this planet depends on for survival. Commercial greenhouses try to keep their CO2 levels, at around 1300 ppm by burning fossil fuels, because is pays to do so! Everything grows better, bigger, healthier and they can produce more. (continued)

Feb 04, 2017
(part 2)
If we could raise the atmospheric CO2 to 1300 ppm, the whole planet could produce like a commercial greenhouse and at a fraction of the cost of operating a greenhouse and because the plants aren't grown behind glass, that filters and reduces the Suns energy, the produce is even better, healthier and tastier, than the greenhouse product.

When will these AGW fanatics wake up and stop shooting us all, in the foot?

CO2 offers us the opportunity to turn this planet into the Garden of Eden, it was always intended to be!

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