Located 200 meters underwater, the dark ocean does not receive enough light to support photosynthesis. In the oceans, the photosynthesis takes place in the top layer where the sunlight penetrates. Microbes that live in deeper waters known informally as the “twilight zone” use a significant portion of the carbon produced in the waters where photosynthesis takes place. The carbon is then transported to the dark ocean some 200 meters underwater and may return back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide over several months. Some of the organic carbon escapes microbial degradation and sinks deeper into the ocean to the bathypelagic zone, where it may be sequestered for centuries. The Malaspina 2010 Global Circumnavigation Expedition is a nine-month interdisciplinary research project whose overall goals are to assess the impact of global change on the oceans and explore their biodiversity. Using this project as the jump-off point, researchers aim to map and assess the biogeography, diversity, functioning and genetic interactions of deep ocean microbial communities. The project provides an opportunity to address current imbalances in scientists’ understanding of microbial diversity and carbon cycling in the largest ecosystem on Earth.
Proposer’s Name: Silvia G. Acinas