Towards a transformative understanding of the ocean’s biological pump: Priorities for future research - Report on the NSF Biology of the Biological Pump Workshop

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Burd, Adrian B.
Buchan, Alison
Church, Matthew J.
Landry, Michael R.
McDonnell, Andrew M. P.
Passow, Uta
Steinberg, Deborah K.
Benway, Heather M.
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The net transfer of organic matter from the surface to the deep ocean is a key function of ocean food webs. The combination of biological, physical, and chemical processes that contribute to and control this export is collectively known as the “biological pump”, and current estimates of the global magnitude of this export range from 5 – 12 Pg C yr-1. This material can be exported in dissolved or particulate form, and many of the biological processes that regulate the composition, quantity, timing, and distribution of this export are poorly understood or constrained. Export of organic material is of fundamental importance to the biological and chemical functioning of the ocean, supporting deep ocean food webs and controlling the vertical and horizontal segregation of elements throughout the ocean. Remineralization of exported organic matter in the upper mesopelagic zone provides nutrients for surface production, while material exported to depths of 1000 m or more is generally considered to be sequestered — i.e. out of contact with the atmosphere for centuries or longer. The ability to accurately model a system is a reflection of the degree to which the system is understood. In the case of export, semi-empirical and simple mechanistic models show a wide range of predictive skill. This is, in part, due to the sparseness of available data, which impedes our inability to accurately represent, or even include, all relevant processes (sometimes for legitimate computational reasons). Predictions will remain uncertain without improved understanding and parameterization of key biological processes affecting export.
NSF Biology of the Biological Pump Workshop, February 19–20, 2016 (Hyatt Place New Orleans, New Orleans, LA)
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