Cluster of Excellence ›The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface‹
The ocean floor, which makes up 71 % of the Earth’s solid surface, lies an average of 3,700 meters beneath the ocean surface. The difficulties related to accessibility necessitate ship expeditions and the use of highly specialized underwater equipment for its exploration. As yet, only a small fraction of the ocean floor has been scientifically investigated, but it is already known that this supposedly passive environment is an important interface with a wide range of functions that impact the entire Earth system. Geological, physical, biological and chemical processes interact at and within the ocean floor, thus influencing the climate system, the global carbon cycle, and biological productivity in the world ocean. We still know too little about ocean-floor processes to compile detailed global mass budgets.
The Cluster of Excellence ›The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface‹ aims to initiate a new chapter in ocean-floor research by quantifying exchange processes at this significant boundary layer and their roles in the Earth system. This will be achieved by:
- deciphering processes that control the transport of biogenic particles to the ocean floor and their transformation under changing climate conditions,
- balancing the transfer of carbon and other elements between the ocean floor and seawater,
- understanding how ocean-floor ecosystems react to environmental changes, and
- developing scenarios for a ›warmer-than-present world‹ from ocean-floor climate archives with the help of climate models.
These scientific tasks demand the use of novel technologies for ocean-floor observation and sampling, highly sensitive analytical methods, and an expanded application of numerical models. Because of their scientific and technological complexity, the stated goals can only be achieved through interdisciplinary research.
The global Ocean Floor
- Key interface of the global carbon and nutrient cycles
- Host to unique and vulnerable ecosystems
- Driver and archive of environmental and climate changes