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Complex ocean behavior studied with 'artificial upwelling'
Date:9/2/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. A team of scientists is studying the complex ocean upwelling process by mimicking nature pumping cold, nutrient-rich water from deep within the Pacific Ocean and releasing it into surface waters near Hawaii that lack the nitrogen and phosphorous necessary to support high biological production.

The researchers are harnessing the power of the ocean to conduct their experiments, using the up-and-down motion of waves to pump deep water to the surface. Their next step is to create a pump that can withstand the rigors of the rugged Pacific and then see if the biology follows the physics.

"During our first test, the ocean destroyed our pump in one day," said Angelicque "Angel" White, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and a member of the scientific team. "Initially, the system worked and we were able to bring cold water to the surface and control the depth of its release. Now we need to work on the engineering aspect."

The theory behind the experiment has just been published in the journal, Marine Ecology Progress Series. The initial test of the pumps and their effect in the open ocean is the focus of a documentary that is scheduled to be broadcast Sept. 5 on the Discovery Channel.

This experiment was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation. White and lead investigators Ricardo Letelier of OSU and David Karl of the University of Hawaii are part of the NSF-funded Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) based in Hawaii, which Karl directs.

The scientists stress that the goal of creating artificially induced upwelling is to understand how marine microbial ecosystems respond to large-scale perturbations, "a critical step if we want to understand the risks of manipulating these large ecosystems in order to solve global greenhouse buildup," said Letelier, a professor in OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmosph
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Contact: Ricardo Letelier
letelier@coas.oregonstate.edu
541-737-3890
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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