OCB Science Highlights

OCB Science Highlights

If you would like to have your recent publications featured on the OCB website and eNewsletter please contact ocb_news@whoi.edu. View our guidelines for writing a OCB Science Highlight.

A role for tropical nitrogen fixers in glacial CO2 drawdown

December 4, 2019

Iron fertilization of marine phytoplankton by Aeolian dust is a well-established mechanism for atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) drawdown by the ocean. When atmospheric CO2 decreased by 90-100 ppm during previous ice ages, fertilization of iron-limited phytoplankton in the high latitudes was thought to have contributed up to 1/3 (30 ppm) of the total CO2 drawdown. Unfortunately, recent […]

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The Equatorial Undercurrent influences the fate of the Oxygen Minimum Zone in the Pacific

November 12, 2019

While the ocean as a whole is losing oxygen due to warming, oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are maintained by a delicate balance of biological and physical processes; it is unclear how each one of them is going to evolve in the future. Changes to OMZs could affect the global uptake of carbon, the generation of […]

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Biogeochemical controls of surface ocean phosphate

November 12, 2019

Phosphorus availability is important for phytoplankton growth and more broadly ocean biogeochemical cycles. However, phosphate concentration is often below the analytical detection limit of the standard auto-analyzer technique. Thus, we know little about geographic phosphate variation across most low latitude regions. To address this issue, a global collaboration of scientists conducted a study published in […]

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The arsenic respiratory cycle in pelagic waters of Oxygen Deficient Zones

October 30, 2019

Oxygen Deficient Zones (ODZs) are naturally occurring functionally anoxic regions of the open ocean which can act as proxies for early Earth’s anoxic ocean. Without free oxygen, microorganisms in these regions use alternative electron acceptors to oxidize organic material. These functionally anoxic regions are also hotspots for chemoautotrophic pathways. Some microorganisms can use arsenic based […]

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Pumped up by the cold: Increased elemental density in polar diatoms

October 28, 2019

Large diatoms are common in polar phytoplankton blooms, contributing significantly to food webs and carbon export, but relatively little is known about their elemental biogeochemistry. A recent study in Frontiers in Marine Science showed that the size-dependent increase in cell nutrient content for polar diatoms was similar to published values for temperate diatoms, whereas the […]

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The ecology of the biological carbon pump

October 15, 2019

Plankton in the surface ocean convert CO2 into organic biomass thereby fueling marine food webs. Part of this organic biomass sinks down into the deep ocean, where the surface-derived organic carbon, or respired CO2, is locked in for decades to millennia. Without the biological carbon pump, atmospheric CO2 would be ~200 ppm higher than it […]

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A new tidal non-photochemical quenching model reveals obscured variability in coastal chlorophyll fluorescence

October 15, 2019

Although chlorophyll fluorescence is widely-used as a proxy for chlorophyll concentration, sunlight exposure makes fluorescence measurements inaccurate through a process called non-photochemical quenching, limiting its proxy accuracy during daylight hours. In the open ocean, where time and space scales are large relative to variability in phytoplankton concentration, daytime chlorophyll fluorescence—necessary for satellite algorithm validation and […]

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A new roadmap of climate change driven ocean changes

October 2, 2019

When will we see significant changes in the ocean due to climate change? A new study in Nature Climate Change confirms that outcomes tied directly to the escalation of atmospheric carbon dioxide have already emerged in the existing 30-year observational record. These include sea surface warming, acidification, and increases in the rate at which the […]

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Industrial era climate forcing drives multi-century decline in North Atlantic productivity

October 2, 2019

Phytoplankton respond directly to climate forcing, and due to their central role in global oxygen production and atmospheric carbon sequestration, they are critical components of the Earth’s climate system. There are however few observations detailing past variability in marine primary productivity, particularly over multi-decadal to centennial timescales. This limits our understanding of the long-term impact […]

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Phytoplankton bloom from molten lava

September 18, 2019

During June-August 2018, the oligotrophic North Pacific Ocean received an enormous quantity of nutrients in the form of molten lava, delivered by the erupting Kilauea on the big island of Hawaii.  A phytoplankton bloom formed in response to the input of lava and an expedition was rapidly mobilized to determine its composition and the relevant […]

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