BECS WG – Benthic Ecosystem and Carbon Synthesis

Benthic Ecosystem and Carbon Synthesis (BECS) Working Group

The BECS working group is aimed at understanding the carbon cycle and ecosystems within the land-to-ocean aquatic continuum by improving our understanding of related benthic processes and their representation in ocean and climate models. Benthic sediments (i.e. the seafloor) serve as the only long-term (century-to-millennial) sink of ocean carbon. Despite their critical role in the global carbon cycle, our understanding of coastal and global carbon dynamics is hindered by both a paucity of data and simplistic representations of seafloor biogeochemistry and ecosystems in models. This represents a key deficiency in future projections of the global carbon cycle and our quantification of the role of the benthos as a long-term carbon sink. Despite these uncertainties, many proposed carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and “blue carbon” climate mitigation strategies rely on ocean sediments as carbon sinks.

The coastal oceanography and global modeling communities currently operate in separate silos. This working group will be an important step forward to bridge the knowledge gap left by the lack of integration between coastal and global efforts. We hope to identify gaps in our understanding of key processes in benthic communities across space in the coastal ocean. We will bring together a community of observationalists and modelers to integrate knowledge on coastal and open ocean benthic fluxes and biota, and coastal water column nutrient fluxes, which can be influenced by benthic-pelagic interactions. To that end, we have the following goals:

  1. Facilitate communication and data sharing between coastal and global biogeochemical / ecosystem modelers and observationalists.
  2. Establish shared data protocols, including common definitions and variable names/units.
  3. Develop data products for model development.
  4. Develop recommendations for future directions in observations and modeling.

Read the full proposal


Upcoming opportunities

The BECS working group is seeking

15 new members - apply by October 6

Input to guide the working group's activities and focus - deadline October 6

Speakers for webinar series

Get Involved

OCB BECS Working Group call for 15 new members


We are soliciting approximately 15 working group members. Responsibilities of the working group members include:

  • Participating in the bimonthly webinars;
  • Contributing to the drafting and finalization of at least one of the working group reports / publications;
  • Contributing to the generation of data protocols and collecting/summarizing data from the literature into a data product;
  • Attending two in-person working group meetings (travel expenses paid). The first meeting will be early April, 2024 in the Boston, MA area. The second meeting will be in 2025, with dates/locations decided in consultation with the working group.

Applicants will be selected to ensure balance within the working group with respect to scientific expertise, career stage, gender, and race/ethnicity.

As a result, you will get to shape the future research directions in benthic ecosystems and benthic-pelagic coupling! We anticipate that participating in this working group will also jumpstart collaborations and lead to future research projects / proposals amongst WG members.

OCB BECS Working Group call for community input

To achieve the working group goals listed above, we are (1) hosting a series of broad community engagement efforts, including Town Halls, bi-monthly webinars, and sessions at major conferences. In addition, we are (2) organizing a set of smaller working group meetings to develop a set of research priority recommendations, and work together to generate data products that can inform benthic model development and model-data intercomparisons.
For the smaller working group meetings, we are soliciting comments and suggestions from the community regarding research priorities, knowledge gaps, and technological needs for improving our understanding of benthic ecosystems and benthic-pelagic coupling.

For this questionnaire, please set aside at least 10-15 minutes to answer the questions. There are a total of 3 pages to this survey, focused on general information, knowledge gaps at different scales, and processes, technologies, and observations vs. modeling. However, please feel free to answer a few or all of the questions. We are hoping to get wide community input that will inform our research priorities and recommendations.

Open Webinars

Would you like to deliver a talk?

The BECS Working Group is soliciting speaker applications for future webinars on topics such as:

  • Benthic biogeochemical fluxes (carbon, oxygen, and nutrients)
  • Benthic boundary layer dynamics
  • Benthic ecosystems (community ecology, ecosystem-environment interactions)
  • Organic matter transformations
  • Methods / Techniques
  • Human interactions
  • Global change
  • Syntheses

For these seminars, we are focused on the coastal and open ocean, not estuaries, and are interested primarily in observational studies (though if you have an interesting modeling study, please do not hesitate to submit.)

Each seminar should be 20-25 minutes in length, and we plan to offer two per webinar with time for discussion at the end. If you are more comfortable pre-recording your seminar and/or you would like to practice your seminar before presenting we are happy to help. Please add a note in the comment section if this is the case. We are eager to highlight the work of early career researchers and scientists and we particularly encourage those from the Global South to submit an abstract.

Title/TopicDateSpeakersLink to register or watch recording
Benthic ecosystems2023 July 11Clare Woulds, University of Leeds
Second speaker TBA
Oxygen fluxes2023 May 9, 12pm ETMatt Long (WHOI) "Benthic Oxygen Metabolism: How Technology, Physics and Fluxes Advance Marine Biogeochemistry"

Jim Moffett (USC) "Bottom water oxygen determines cross-shelf transport of iron - or does it?"
Introduction to Working Group and Overview of Benthic Ecosystem and Carbon Synthesis2023 March 13Cristina Schultz and Jessica Luo introduced the BECS working group in the context of past OCB efforts.

Jack Middelburg (Professor of Geosciences at Utrecht University, The Netherlands) is an international leader on ocean biogeochemical cycles, particularly sedimentary inorganic cycles and benthic ecosystems.

Lead Investigators

Cristina Schultz (Northeastern University)

Jessica Luo (NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory)


Wally Fulweiler (Boston University)

Colleen Petrik (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Matthew H. Long (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Jeremy Testa (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences)

Damian Brady (University of Maine)