Half of the Earth’s primary production occurs in the ocean’s surface waters where large amounts of atmospheric CO2 are fixed into organic matter. While sinking through the water column or being transported laterally, biogenic materials are transformed and to a large extent degraded. Thus, only a fraction of the biomass produced reaches the ocean floor where it has the potential to be sequestered over long timescales. Understanding the processes determining this burial flux is crucial for establishing the budgets of carbon and other elements across the ocean-floor interface.
We will qualify and quantify the key processes controlling this biological pump and track the associated signatures preserved in the sedimentary record.
Our main objectives / expected achievements are:
- To investigate the controlling mechanisms of the biological pump and its interaction with
changing global biogeochemical cycles we will develop a mechanistic understanding of
how matter is transferred and transformed during its journey to the ocean floor.
- To quantify the impacts of continental-shelf processes on open-ocean biogeochemistry we
will reveal how the ocean floor on continental shelves acts as a buffer between land and the
open ocean by filtering and transforming carbon and nutrients.
- To develop quantitative models determining the origin, trajectory, and age of organic and
inorganic matter that reaches the ocean floor we will examine the connectivity between
surface-ocean conditions and the signatures received and integrated at the ocean floor.
- To trace how ocean conditions are preserved in the ocean floor as geological archives we
will establish novel and improve existing indicators (proxies) for reconstructing key parameters
and processes in the ocean system.