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Biogeochemistry

This category contains 46 posts

An arsenic surprise: How our buried past will catch up with us

Global sea level is expected to rise 0.8 to 1 meter by 2100 and may release arsenic trapped in soil. Researchers investigated how this arsenic release would impact the biogeochemical cycling of coastal water systems as they are inundated with water due to sea level rise.

Suffocating crabs and a one-way street for carbon

Seafloor life is in danger of running out of oxygen as the ocean warms, but this may actually help to mitigate climate change.

Methane on the dinner menu

Bacteria in coastal waters can eat methane, a greenhouse gas – but just how much and how fast can they eat?

Funny happenings in the tropical Pacific

Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas made by environmental microbes. In the ocean, microbes making this greenhouse gas live in zones with little to no oxygen. Scientists always thought that Bacteria were making this gas. Recently, a team from the UK set out to explore this hypothesis in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and found that actually a totally different type of microorganism, Archaea, were making the nitrous oxide. These are important findings since global warming and increased human inputs in the ocean are causing low oxygen zones to expand, potentially making even more greenhouse gas!

A mercurial tug o’ war in Antarctic sea ice

DNA from bacteria living in Antarctic sea ice provides a clue to the mysterious origins of methyl mercury in seawater in the Southern Ocean.

From Wastewater to Seahorses to the Medicine Cabinet

Pollution of metals could be getting into the tissue of seahorses–the very tissues that are used to make a special Chinese medicine. Now scientists fear that the metal pollutants could harm the patients who take the medicine. Read more to find out what they learned about the accumulation of metals in seahorse tissues.

Do coral reefs help fight climate change?

Coral reefs are called the rainforests of the sea for their stunning biodiversity. But can they, like forests on land, absorb CO2 and help reduce global warming?

The Dirty Blizzard: how oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill reached the seafloor

Oil floats on water, yet oil spills are still devastating for marine life living on the seafloor. How does it get there? A new study shows that it can hitch a ride on sinking particles during an algae bloom, turning marine snow into a “dirty blizzard”. Read on to find out more!

Why iron fertilization hasn’t worked

Fertilizing the ocean with iron to help algae store more carbon in the deep sea was once heralded as a solution for global warming. But decades of research has suggested it doesn’t work as advertised. What went wrong? Read on to find out!

Dust detectives: tracing the origins of Antarctic ice core debris

Tiny dust particles punch above their weight by delivering nutrients to remote ecosystems. A new study uses the chemical fingerprint of dust particles to retrace their origins and how this important process has changed over the last 800,000 years. Read on to learn more!

Of whales and cows: the baleen whale microbiome revealed

Scientists sequenced the microbiomes of several baleen whales that are strict carnivores and found some startling similarities to the microbiomes of terrestrial herbivores.

Solving Big Dam Problems

The US has a lot of dams. Probably far more than you ever imagined possible. Many of these dams are around 100 years old. How long does it take to restore a riverine ecosystem to a more natural state after a century of alteration by a dam? Scientists addressed a portion of this question by measuring the return of salmon to a section of river previously blocked by the dam and the use of the nutrients delivered by these salmon by other organisms in the area.

One to tango: a bacterium that does the work of two in the nitrogen cycle

Scientists report bacterial species capable of performing the two-step process of nitrification, traditionally thought to exist only as a division of labor between two functionally distinct bacteria.

A Slick Study! Natural Oil Seeps and Chlorophyll

Oil seeps are naturally occurring sources of oil to the marine environment. This study looks at the impacts of oil seeps on chlorophyll concentrations near the surface of the ocean and the results are pretty slick!

Sailing the Southern Ocean for science

Hear about my adventures living on an icebreaker on the Southern Ocean, deploying ocean robots to understand the chemistry and biology of the Southern Ocean.

Oil spill first responders: how tiny algae cultivate oil-degrading bacteria

After an oil spill, millions of oil-degrading bacteria are on the scene almost immediately. But how do they survive in regions with no oil pollution? A new study shows that tiny cyanobacteria produce enough oil to maintain a small population of oil-degraders, capable of rapidly multiplying in response to the sudden influx of oil from a spill. This short term oil cycle sustains a first line of defense against catastrophic ecological damage from spills.

Rapid changes in the Southern Ocean threaten ecosystems

Rapid acidification of the Southern Ocean could occur in the next 30 years with potentially huge impacts to local ecosystems.

Estimating carbon sequestration from plankton poop

Copepod fecal pellets—plankton poop—transport carbon from the ocean surface to the deep where it is stored for thousands of years. A new study presents a framework for scaling up our understanding of this process from observations of single organisms to the global ocean.

Ocean eddies suck carbon out of the atmosphere, thanks to plankton

When phytoplankton sink into the deep ocean, they take carbon with them, storing CO2 away from the atmosphere. This new study suggests that ocean eddies may play an important role in getting this tiny organisms to sink!

Microbes foil attempts to increase deep ocean carbon sequestration

Most carbon emitted to the atmosphere ends up in the ocean, much of it in organic molecules. While most is quickly respired back to CO2, a fraction is transformed by microbes to apparently stable compounds that persist in the ocean for centuries. Could we manipulate the microbial community to hold even more? A new study suggests this is unlikely because the deep ocean is already holding as much organic carbon as it can handle.

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