Oceanic Sequesting

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  • How do biological processes sequester carbon in the oceans, on shorter timescales?
    • The oceans are the Earth's largest carbon store.
      • The oceanic store of carbon is 50 times greater than that of the atmosphere.
        • Most of the oceanic carbon is stored in algae, plants and coral.
          • The rest occurs in dissolved form.
    • Biological Pumps
      • One of the 3 types of oceanic carbon pump.
      • Move carbon dioxide from the ocean surface to marine plants phytoplankton by a process known as photosynthesis.
        • This effectively converts carbon dioxide into food for zooplankton (microscopic animals) and their predators.
      • Most of the carbon dioxide taken up by phytoplankton is recycled near the surface.
      • About 30% sinks into deeper waters before being converted back into carbon dioxide by marine bacteria.
    • Carbon Pumps are the processes operating in the oceans that circulate and store carbon.
    • Physical Pumps
      • Move carbon compounds to different parts of the ocean in down-welling and up-welling currents.
      • Downwelling occurs in those parts of the oceans where cold, denser water sinks
        • These currents bring dissolved carbon dioxide down to the deep ocean
          • Once there, it moves in slow-moving deep ocean currents, staying there for hundreds of years.
            • Eventually, these deep ocean currents, part of the thermohaline circulation, return to the surface by upwelling.
              • The cold deep ocean water warms as it rises towards the ocean ocean surface and some of the dissolved carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.
          • Due to high pressure and low temperature of surface seawater.
      • One of the 3 types of oceanic carbon pump
    • Carbonate pumps
      • Form sediment from dead organisms that fall to the ocean floor
      • Carbonates pumps form sediment from dead organisms that fall to the ocean floor.
      • Forms particuarly from outer shells and skelletons from crustaceans, fish and corals.
        • All are rich in calcium carbonate
    • Sequester: Process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored for a long period of time.
      • For example through biological process in the Ocean, such as Carbonate Pumps.


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