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Nutrients, viruses and the biological carbon pump
Date:6/30/2010

produces subtle feedbacks and complex dynamics, which present a challenge to modellers. Rhodes and Martin therefore used three models of sequentially increasing complexity, so as to understand the key factors driving the dynamics and to increase confidence in the robustness of the model predictions.

The models predict that decreased nutrient levels correspond to high viral infection rates among phytoplankton.

On the other hand, increased nutrient levels are predicted to decrease viral infection rates. This means that more of the carbon contained in phytoplankton would be available to zooplankton and other creatures higher up the food chain.

When these organisms die, a proportion of the associated carbon would sink down to the deep ocean, where it could be locked away for centuries, rather than being released back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This mechanism for exporting carbon to the deep ocean is called the biological carbon pump.

Artificial enhancement of the biological carbon pump by fertilizing the oceans with nutrients has been proposed as a possible geo-engineering 'fix' for global warming caused by the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources.

"The decrease in viral infection rates caused by artificially adding nutrients to the sea could in the future benefit humans by increasing the efficiency of the biological carbon pump, making these proposed ocean geo-engineering schemes more viable," said Dr Rhodes.


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Contact: Dr. Rory Howlett
r.howlett@noc.soton.ac.uk
44-238-059-8490
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Source:Eurekalert

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