Interactions in the Dark Ocean

Fig 1 from Steinberg and Hansell (2010) DSRIIThe recent of issue of Deep-Sea Research II is out and focuses on the ecological and biogeochemical interactions in the dark ocean. Perhaps the best summary of why this is an important contribution is from the editor of the volume themselves...

The deep sea, a vast, dark realm featuring disticntive organisms and serving as a massive reservoir of carbon, is the largest and leas explored ecosystem on Earth.  At a time when the ocean is responding to anthropogenic forcings, we note that considerably less is known about ecological and biogeochemical processes in the dark ocean (the dim mesopelagic or ‘twilight zone” plus the aphotic bathypelagic zone below) than in the euphotic zone-the focus of several prior major interdsciplinary studies.  The biological pump connects surfaces processes to the deepest ocean layers…These deep layers are characterized by significant decomposition, recycling, and repackaging of particulate and dissolved organic matter. thus, the interplay between biological and geochemical processes at depth can have significant affects on the magnitude and efficiency of the biological pump, which regulates in part atmospheric CO2 and, hence climate.

This volume contains many excellent contributions including: Major contribution of autotrophy to microbial carbon cycling in the deep North Atlantic’s interiorAssessing the apparent imbalance between geochemical and biochemical indicators of meso- and bathypelagic biological activity: What the @$#! is wrong with present calculations of carbon budgets? (discussed previously at DSN); and the great reviews Emerging concepts on microbial processes in the bathypelagic ocean – ecology, biogeochemistry, and genomics and Mesopelagic zone ecology and biogeochemistry – a synthesis.  Despite the paper not being open access, they are worth a read.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

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