Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Echinoderms contribute to global carbon sink

08.01.2010
Echinoderms and carbon

The impact on levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere by the decaying remains of a group of marine creatures that includes starfish and sea urchin has been significantly underestimated.

"Climate models must take this carbon sink into account," says Mario Lebrato, lead author of the study. The work was done when he was at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) and affiliated with the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES); he is now at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Germany.

Globally, the seabed habitats occupy more than 300 million million square metres, from the intertidal flats and pools to the mightiest deep-sea trenches at 11,000 meters. The benthos – the animals living on and in the sediments – populate this vast ecosystem.

Calcifying organisms incorporate carbon directly from the seawater into their skeletons in the form of inorganic minerals such as calcium carbonate. This means that their bodies contain a substantial amount of inorganic carbon. When they die and sink, some of the inorganic carbon is remineralised, and much of it becomes buried in sediments, where it remains locked up indefinitely.

Lebrato and his colleagues provide the first estimation of the contributions of starfish, sea urchins, brittle stars, sea cucumbers and sea lilies – all kinds of echinoderm – to the calcium carbonate budget at the seabed. They estimate that the global production from all echinoderms is over a tenth (0.1) of a gigatonne of carbon per year – that is, more than a hundred thousand million kilograms.

This is less than the total biological production in the main water column, or pelagic zone, which scientists believe to be between around 0.6 and 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon per year. But echinoderms apparently deliver more carbon to the sediments than do forams, for example. These microscopic animals live in vast numbers in the oceans and are traditionally regarded along with coccolithophores (single-celled marine plants surrounded by calcium carbonate plates) as one of the biggest contributors to the flux of calcium carbonate from the sunlit surface waters to the ocean's interior – the so-called 'biological carbon pump'.

"Our research highlights the poor understanding of large-scale carbon processes associated with calcifying animals such as echinoderms and tackles some of the uncertainties in the oceanic calcium carbonate budget," says Lebrato: "The realisation that these creatures represent such a significant part of the ocean carbon sink needs to be taken into account in computer models of the biological pump and its effect on global climate."

There is a worry that ocean acidification due to increased carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels could reduce the amount of calcium carbonate incorporated into the skeletons of echinoderms and other calcifying organisms.

However, different echinoderm species respond to ocean acidification in different ways, and the effects of rising temperatures can be as significant as those of rising carbon dioxide. How this will affect the global carbon sink remains to be established.

Lebrato concludes: "The scientific community needs to reconsider the role of benthic processes in the marine calcium carbonate cycle. This is a crucial but understudied compartment of the global marine carbon cycle, which has been of key importance throughout Earth history and it is still at present."

Contact information:

For more information contact the NOCS Press Officer Dr Rory Howlett on +44 (0)23 8059 8490 Email: r.howlett@noc.soton.ac.uk

Images are available from the NOCS Press Office (Tel. 023 8059 6100).

Scientist contact
Mario Lebrato: email mlebrato13@googlemail.com; telephone 003 464 654 4893 until 17 January, 0049 431 600 4507 thereafter.

The authors are: Mario Lebrato (NOCS/SOES), Debora Iglesias-Rodríguez (NOCS/SOES), Richard Feely (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,, Seattle), Dana Greeley (NOCS/SOES), Daniel Jones (NOCS), Nadia Suarez-Bosche (NOCS/SOES), Richard Lampitt (NOCS), Joan Cartes (Institut de Ciències del Mar de Barcelona), Darryl Green (NOCS) and Belinda Alker (NOCS).

Publication:
Lebrato, M., et al. Global contribution of echinoderms to the marine carbon cycle: a reassessment of the oceanic CaCO3 budget and the benthic compartments. Ecological Monograghs doi: 10.1890/09-0553 (published on-line, 2009).

http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/09-0553

See also: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100107/full/news.2009.1041.html

The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton is the UK's focus for ocean science. It is one of the world's leading institutions devoted to research, teaching and technology development in ocean and earth science. Over 500 research scientists, lecturing, support and seagoing staff are based at the centre's purpose-built waterside campus in Southampton along with over 700 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton is a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council. The NERC royal research ships RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery are based at NOCS as is the National Marine Equipment Pool which includes Autosub and Isis, two of the world's deepest diving research vehicles.

Dr. Rory Howlett | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.soton.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>