Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The long journey of particles near the ocean floor and its relevance for carbon burial

16.02.2006


German and British scientists have studied the ocean off south-western Africa and have discovered that particles are transported to the deep ocean over thousands of years before being deposited on the seabed. This discovery may increase our understanding of how the oceans act as carbon dioxide sinks and how oil deposits form.



Areas of extremely high marine productivity are confined to small sections of modern continental margins. Despite their limited size, these areas are considered to be important sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide, arguably with relevance for global climate. The most productive coastal upwelling area of the modern ocean is the Benguela upwelling system off south-western Africa, an area that is considered to represent an important modern analogue of petroleum source rocks deposited in the geological past. Off south-western Africa, upwelling of cold nutrient-rich waters along the coast causes extraordinary strong growth of plankton, which binds carbon in their biomass.

When remnants of dead plankton sink to the sea floor, organic matter from their biomass is buried, as manifested by sediments exceptionally enriched in organic carbon. This process is capable to sequester huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over longer time scales. It is commonly thought that the distribution of such carbon-rich sediments directly links to surface water productivity through settling of particles vertical through the water column.


In the current issue of Geology, (Volume 34 Issue 3), Inthorn and his co-workers from the Research Center Ocean Margins in Bremen, the University of Newcastle, and the BGR Hannover report unprecedented process observations from the Benguela, where they collected surface sediments and fine particles floating in cloudy water layers above the sea floor. In determining the sedimentological and geochemical composition as well as the age of the samples, they show that organic particles in cloudy water layers drift over large distances from near shore to deeper waters on the continental slope, where they get finally buried at water depths of 400 to 1500 meters.

The age of organic matter reveals that this seaward journey can take up to a few thousand years. This journey also effectively displaces the area of final burial of organic matter (and thus former atmospheric carbon dioxide) from their place of production. These results place general questions on widely acknowledged vertical particle flux models, which apparently do not fully explain the relationship between primary production and organic carbon burial in high productive areas.

The broader implications of this study suggest that carbon budgets of the deep ocean in the past and thus climate relationships may have been much stronger affected by these processes near the sea floor than previously thought. Inthorn contemplates that enhanced and widespread downslope transport of organic carbon in cloudy water layers may have been much more vigorous at times when sea level was fluctuating and lower than today.

Professor Thomas Wagner | alfa
Further information:
http://www.newcastle.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations
23.02.2018 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

nachricht First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals
22.02.2018 | University of Arizona

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen

23.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Stagnation in the South Pacific Explains Natural CO2 Fluctuations

23.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

Mat4Rail: EU Research Project on the Railway of the Future

23.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>