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This fearless robot is the wali of the deep sea

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However, the amount of carbon captured varies from ocean to season. In general, the researchers just didn’t deal with the biological and chemical processes that took place there well. The new paper’s co-author and MBARI marine biologist Crissy Huffard said: “The rover helps us understand how much carbon may actually enter the deep-sea sediments.” “This is how we compare the amount of carbon that may actually be stored in the sediments. The only view on actual consumption and the amount of carbon that could cause deep ocean acidification.” (When carbon dioxide dissolves in sea water, it forms carbonic acid.)

This is a tricky example of one of the mysteries of undersea carbon. In California, where the land heats up much faster than the adjacent ocean, this difference exacerbates seasonal winds. This may push more upwelling-the wind pushes the surface water away, and the water from below rushes up to fill the gaps. This will bring more nutritious phytoplankton, which blooms in the surface water, then dies and turns into sea snow. For example, between 2015 and 2020, BR-II’s fluorescence camera detected a significant increase in the number of phytoplankton reaching the seabed in large pulses. At the same time, its sensors detect a decrease in oxygen, which means that the microorganisms on the seafloor are busy processing the rich ore of organic matter.

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This raises some questions for Hefard. “In general, the food supply in the area has become more unstable-in a few weeks it may consume food for years. So how will this change the entire ecosystem?” she asked. “The animal kingdom’s response was almost instant. They started eating immediately, with no big lag. The microbes were just ready to start using.”

What does this mean for the carbon cycle? In theory, the more organic matter that rains, the more organic matter is isolated from the atmosphere. But at the same time, the sea creatures eating this extra buffet are also consuming oxygen and spitting out carbon dioxide, which may acidify deeper waters. And as the ocean continues to churn, some of the carbon may even return to the surface water and into the atmosphere. “We show that more and more carbon is entering the deep ocean than originally expected,” Huffard said. “The rover adds dimension, telling us that most of the carbon will be eaten once it gets there, rather than stored in the sediment.”

Are these huge sea snow pulses now a permanent feature of the California deep ocean, or are they an anomaly? With the help of a submarine rover, scientists can collect the long-term data needed to start providing answers. “The deep sea is largely under-studied and valued, although it is essential for maintaining the health of the planet and coping with climate change,” said Lisa Levine, who studies the seabed at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography but was not involved. . this work. “A large number of such devices can help us better understand biogeochemical changes-which is essential for improving climate models, ecosystem models, fisheries models, etc.” The rover can also help scientists study the impact of deep-sea mining operations.

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