Interactions in the Dark Ocean

Fig 1 from Steinberg and Hansell (2010) DSRIIThe recent of issue of Deep-Sea Research II is out and focuses on the ecological and biogeochemical interactions in the dark ocean. Perhaps the best summary of why this is an important contribution is from the editor of the volume themselves...

The deep sea, a vast, dark realm featuring disticntive organisms and serving as a massive reservoir of carbon, is the largest and leas explored ecosystem on Earth.  At a time when the ocean is responding to anthropogenic forcings, we note that considerably less is known about ecological and biogeochemical processes in the dark ocean (the dim mesopelagic or ‘twilight zone” plus the aphotic bathypelagic zone below) than in the euphotic zone-the focus of several prior major interdsciplinary studies.  The biological pump connects surfaces processes to the deepest ocean layers…These deep layers are characterized by significant decomposition, recycling, and repackaging of particulate and dissolved organic matter. thus, the interplay between biological and geochemical processes at depth can have significant affects on the magnitude and efficiency of the biological pump, which regulates in part atmospheric CO2 and, hence climate.

This volume contains many excellent contributions including: Major contribution of autotrophy to microbial carbon cycling in the deep North Atlantic’s interiorAssessing the apparent imbalance between geochemical and biochemical indicators of meso- and bathypelagic biological activity: What the @$#! is wrong with present calculations of carbon budgets? (discussed previously at DSN); and the great reviews Emerging concepts on microbial processes in the bathypelagic ocean – ecology, biogeochemistry, and genomics and Mesopelagic zone ecology and biogeochemistry – a synthesis.  Despite the paper not being open access, they are worth a read.

Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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